After a year of planning and aggregating data, Lee & Low Books released the results of the first Diversity Baseline Survey confirming the lack of representatives from marginalized cultures throughout the industry as well as within various levels including executive, editorial, sales, marketing & publicity, and book reviews.
Last spring, Jason Low publisher of Lee & Low Books created a petition requesting publishers all over the country to sign on and be transparent about the demographics of employees. This call was in response to the Publisher’s Weekly salary survey which as of 2014 asked participants to reveal their ethnic background. While several hundred out of several thousand answered this question, PW’s statistics reflected dismal numbers in terms of diversity. The responses noted that 11% of employees identified as marginalized (5% Asian American, 3% Hispanic/Latino, 2% mixed race, and 1% African American) and brought a vehement response on social media that diversity in the industry remains a systemic problem. Low’s petition drew support from eight review journals and 34 publishers including Fortune 500 and independent ones from giant Penguin Random House to indie Arte Público Press.
Questions were completed “anonymously and publishers did not have direct access to the results.” Data was not collated by Lee & Low staff so as to ensure anonymity for employees. The results from publishers solidify minimal representation from ethnic minorities, LGBTQIA, and disabled communities. Overall 92% of people identify as not differently abled, 88% identify as heterosexual, and 79% identify as Caucasian (though there are aspects of ambiguity to those who may not feel that Caucasian may be the right way to identify themselves). Also, 98.7% identified as cis-gendered (the gender they were assigned at birth) noting that there’s also a lack of transgender and gender-fluid representation within publishing companies. While those who participated reflected a majority of women over men, even in the executive level women represented 59% of this segment, the data Lee & Low provides confirms that publishing, long considered a very liberal industry, is not well representative of the larger U.S. community. One example of which is Latino/Hispanic representation accounting for 6% of the industry, yet as per 2015 statistics Latinos/Hispanics represent 17% (or about 55 million) of the U.S. population.
Book reviewers also do not reflect much diversity, which has come up more in terms of how diverse books can be recognized or what dictates influence to buyers. Reviewers identified as 89% Caucasian, 91% as heterosexual, and 88% as not differently abled. With the latest concerns over representation of history in the picturebook A Birthday Cake for George Washington, as well as A Fine Dessert, and other titles conveying distorted images of historical and marginalized cultures, these statistics solidify the cries from many that when it comes to media, and publishing in particular, there needs to be better reflection and inclusion of marginalized voices.
In future posts Lee & Low will also discuss initiatives to provide and guide more diversity into the work place. As stated on their post another hope is that the results of this data “will lead to more Diversity 102’ conversations about what publishers can do, including improving retention and staff training.”
But another question is, now that this data is available to the larger public will this lead to implementing change or simply more conversation?
This article was written by Jennifer Baker from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.