The Guardian revealed on Wednesday that the US publishing industry has yet to resolve its diversity issue. In a post that sheds light on why Nicholas Sparks has been allowed to publish so many books, Alison Flood writes:
A survey of American publishing has found that it is blindingly white and female, with 79% of staff white and 78% women.
Multicultural children’s publisher Lee & Low Books surveyed staff at 34 American publishers, including Penguin Random House and Hachette , as well as eight review journals, to establish a baseline to measure diversity among publishing staff. They found that 79% were white. Of the remainder, Asians/Native Hawaiians/Pacific Islanders made up 7.2% of staff, Hispanics/Latinos/Mexicans 5.5%, and black/African Americans 3.5%.
This survey shows a gender and race divide not too dissimilar from the survey that PW reported on in 2014, when a self-selected survey group showed the industry was 60% white and 89% female.
In other words, it was about as diverse as the cast of Designing Women or Charmed.
That survey was drawn from PW subscribers, with only 800 participants out of a survey group of 7,500 subjects, so it is far from accurate. But as we saw today, that earlier survey was correct in the broad strokes, and it only reinforces concerns about diversity in publishing.
“Does the lack of diverse books closely correlate to the lack of diverse staff? The percentages, while not exact, are proportional to how the majority of books look nowadays – predominately white. Cultural fit would seem to be relevant here,” writes publisher Jason Low. “Or at least in publishing’s case, what is at work is the tendency – conscious or unconscious – for executives, editors, marketers, sales people and reviewers to work with, develop, and recommend books by and about people who are like them.”
The new survey goes on to show that 88.2% of publishing staff identify as straight or heterosexual, and that 7.6% identify as having a disability.
It is drawn from a slightly larger survey group than PW's survey, although it does share the same self-selection bias. A total of 11,713 publishing staff and 1,524 reviewers were queried, with around one in four responding.
With a participation rate that low, can we really draw any conclusions?
image by Ignite New Zealand