The publishing industry has a diversity problem. The first Diversity in Publishing Survey highlighted some alarming data and issued a welcome call to address publishing’s overwhelming lack of diversity (Lee & Low, 2015). More recently, The 2019 Publishers Weekly Salary Survey revealed that—although industry-wide efforts are starting to deliver more diverse representation in staff—change is slow. Publishing continues to struggle to achieve diverse and inclusive workplaces. In 2017, 86% of publishing professionals across all functions self-identified as white. That indicator inched down only slightly in 2019 to 84%, proving racial diversity in publishing has been slow to take hold. (On the other hand, 2018 data revealed a narrowing of the gender pay gap, with more women moving into positions of leadership. Whole-scale change is possible, if painfully slow.)
This lack of diversity in publishing staff contributes to a lack of diversity in the kinds of books and authors publishers choose to support. Children’s books, for example, predominantly feature white subjects and have been roundly criticized for misrepresenting communities of color. The industry’s bias toward replicating previous successes inclines publishing houses to sign and support what worked before—perpetuating a cycle of exclusion.
In response to this indisputable data, we at Berrett-Koehler have broadened and deepened our efforts to live our mission: “creating a world that works for all.” We’re now committed to embedding DEI into nearly everything we do—starting with the acknowledgment that the “all” in our mission comprises diverse communities with varying definitions of inclusion and belonging. We’re working hard to embed best practices on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) into both our hiring practices and our publishing program. We’re growing our community by purposefully hiring for a diversity of experience in our staffing, more actively recruiting thought leaders from diverse backgrounds, and swiftly expanding a robust portfolio of authors whose books help us all create more inclusive and equitable workplaces. This year, our publications reflect the deep thinking and work we’ve done to deliberately focus on safety and inclusion, paying particular attention to people who are from historically marginalized communities, like people of color, women, LGBTQ+ people, and people with disabilities.
Though we recognize that numbers don’t paint the full picture of DEI work, they can illustrate how we’re measuring up to the call. Of our scheduled 2019 publications, 40 percent are written by women, and 30 percent are written by authors of color, which are both well above the averages in the areas in which we publish. Forty-five percent of our audiobooks are narrated by women. And this is not just an outward-facing goal; thirty-two percent of BK staff are people of color, which is considerably higher than the industry averages documented above.
One of the most important ways we advance DEI is through partnering with authors on the frontlines of change and supporting their movement-building efforts. Our Spring 2020 list presents a host of titles designed to advance DEI in the workplace and beyond. Al Etmanski’s The Power of Disability is a fascinating account of the lessons that people with disabilities can teach us about change efforts and thriving in turbulent times. Sarah Beaulieu’s Breaking the Silence Habit helps employers have the necessary difficult conversations about sexual harassment, while Lisa Z. Fain and Lois J. Zachary focus attention on helping mentors develop the cultural competency needed to bridge differences. Tim Clark shows how leaders can build psychological safety in their organizations and create environments where employees feel included, fully engaged, and empowered to contribute. In Subtle Acts of Exclusion, Tiffany Jana and Michael Baran show readers how to identify, understand, and stop microaggressions. And for a bit of adventure along the way to a more inclusive workplace, Rebekah Bastian’s Blaze Your Own Train presents a modern, feminist take on the classic choose-your-own-adventure book.
There is, of course, much more BK can and should do to advance DEI internally and in its publications; you can count on our commitment to continuously working on it. But for now, I hope you’ll find that this new selection of titles gives you the inspiration and practical guidance you need to help us all create a world that works for all.