Measuring diversity in Australian publishing
In 2019, Bernardine Evaristo became the first black woman and the first British black person to win the Booker Prize. In his recent publication Manifesto, To never give up, she writes of years of experience marginalized by the publishing industry:
âThe idea of ââblack British writing was not only marginalized, it was barely on the radar of an area of ââliterature that couldn’t quite comprehend that such a demographic existed or deserved to be. be published. Editors told black writers that there was no market for our voices, demonstrating the extent of our marginality. “
Similar concerns are also expressed here in Australia.
Last year, Radhiah Chowdhury’s highly regarded Beatrice Davis Editorial Fellowship report, It’s hard to be what you can’t see: the diversity within Australian publishing, has been freed. Its report reflects the experiences of blacks, Asians and ethnic minorities in UK publishing and recommends ways to improve diversity and inclusion in Australian publishing.
Also in 2020, freelance writer and editor Camha Pham shone the spotlight on the workplaces and culture of the Australian publishing industry, reflecting on the small number of publishers and editors at color of the First Nations.
There is a connection between the diversity within the publishing industry that commissions and funds books, and the diversity of writers and voices that are ultimately published.
The level of diversity within the industry is important if we are to ensure that authors from non-traditional backgrounds can access publication and promotion, that textbooks respond to neurodiverse learning styles, and that we let’s produce books that truly reflect the amazing and varied world we occupy.
This has been recognized by the industry and there are publications, products and channels all aimed at increasing diversity in Australian book culture.
These include the Blak & Write Fellowship – jointly managed by the State Library of Queensland and Hachette – which funds First Nations authors and publishers.
Mentorship programs and internship opportunities are available from Writing NSW and the Wheeler Center; Djed Press, the Amplify bookstore and Liminal Magazine stimulate diversity in book publishing and sales; and publisher Cengage collaborated with the Australian Institute for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies to publish a series of books aimed at teaching the history and cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders to elementary school children. . Our land, our stories.
But if we are to accelerate the growing diversity in Australian book publishing, we need to better understand the publishing industry itself and work to improve diversity and inclusion in the workplace.
Diverse and inclusive workplaces are important in themselves.
Numerous studies show that accessible, supportive and respectful work environments generate increased productivity and financial performance.
They also lead to increased creativity, faster and better decision-making and, essential as we enter the post-pandemic era of the Great Resignation, increased employee engagement and employee turnover. weaker staff.
But diverse workplaces aren’t just about recruiting diverse staff.
Publishers must create stimulating and inclusive environments, safe spaces and enabling successful careers. Publishing tends to feature a high number of women in entry-level positions, but as in many industries, the diversity that exists at the junior level is blurring as staff move up the career ladder.
A better understanding of the current situation will spark new ideas for change, but there is a lack of data that can be used to track diversity in Australian book publishing.
In the UK, the Publishers Association Diversity Survey of the Publishing Workforce has been tracking diversity annually for several years, while in the US, Lee and Low’s Diversity Baseline Survey has been doing the same since 2015.
In Australia, the Books + Publishing Reader Survey looked at employment in the industry with some coverage of diversity, but there is currently no comprehensive review that can be compared. Launching a replicable survey dedicated to diversity and inclusion will provide a much more comprehensive picture.
The Australian Publishing Industry Workforce Survey on Diversity and Inclusion will start in early 2022 and is co-funded by the University of Melbourne and the Australian Publishers Association.
The survey will collect data related to a range of attributes, including:
- gender (female, non-binary and various genders)
- First Nations, people of color, ethnicity and race, languages ââspoken at home; sexuality; age; socio-economic position (measured by indicators such as parental education and occupation); location (including regional and metropolitan); disability
- role / function (field of work, seniority, full-time, part-time, freelance, occasional) and employing entities (business, freelance, children’s publishing, educational publishing, scholars / journals, publishing services, noting that many work in several sectors).
This anonymous and aggregated data will help inform future initiatives and policies.
Knowing the demographics of Australian publishing house staff will allow longitudinal tracking of the industry’s progress in diversification. It can also establish a baseline for identifying opportunities to increase diversity and inclusion in Australian publishing.
This important step towards understanding the book publishing industry will help improve work environments and ultimately the diversity of cultural products in Australia.
The survey will be launched at the Small Press Network Independent Publishing Conference on Friday, November 26.
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