A survey of more than 1,000 people working in UK publishing has found that more than 90% currently in the industry classify themselves as white British.
Carried out between June and July, the bookcareers.com salary survey received 1,023 valid responses. The vast majority of respondents â€“ 84.6% – were female, and more than nine in 10 (90.4%) were white British. Four years ago, when research was last conducted, 81.8% of respondents were female, and 93.7% were white British.
â€œI think publishers have been very proactive in trying to encourage diversity â€¦ in their companies,â€ said bookcareers.comâ€™s Suzanne Collier, pointing to Penguin Random House and Hachette as leaders in this field. â€œBut it is going to take a long time for this to take hold, and until that figure is reduced to about 60/40 we have not got true diversity.â€
In 2015, Spread the Wordâ€™s Writing the Future report estimated that around 8% of UK publishing staff came from a BAME (black, Asian and minority ethnic) background and called for the trade to become â€œless homogenisedâ€, with former childrenâ€™s laureate Malorie Blackman speaking of â€œbeing the sole face of colour at literary or publishing eventsâ€.
Her comments were echoed later that year by the author Nikesh Shukla, who told the Guardian: â€œIn publishing circles, Iâ€™m often the only person of colour in a room and Iâ€™m made to feel very aware of that. If we are to tackle this problem, people like me need to feel welcome. Everyone keeps saying: â€˜I am not prejudiced, or racist.â€™ But they wonâ€™t say: â€˜It is my responsibility as well to try and do better.â€™â€
In the US last year, a survey by the multicultural childrenâ€™s publisher Lee & Low Books found that 79% of staff in American publishing were white, and 78% women. At the time, publisher Jason Low commented on â€œthe tendency â€“ conscious or unconscious â€“ for executives, editors, marketers, salespeople and reviewers to work with, develop and recommend books by and about people who are like themâ€.
Collier said that she could not see the situation shifting very quickly, but added: â€œI think it will change in the next generation of people coming into publishing. Publishers have got to do more than tokenism. If all they recruit is one or two people from a diverse background, that is not enough.â€
Joy Francis, executive director of Words of Colour Productions, said: â€œIt is the chief executives who need to explain how, in this so-called global, diverse landscape, they can manage to be so undiverse… this is an endemic, industry-wide problem. And itâ€™s beyond saying â€˜the ball is in their courtâ€™. The ball is cemented to their court, because no one seems to be paying careful enough attention to these issues. Everyone from the police force to advertising is being held to account, so why arenâ€™t they? What is their excuse?â€
Ruth Harrison, director of Spread the Word, said that it was â€œgood to see the diversity figures improving within the industry even if from a very low levelâ€.
â€œOur view is that an increase in diversity across the board in the publishing industry and especially at commissioning level will see more writers of diverse backgrounds coming through,â€ said Harrison, adding: â€œWeâ€™re looking forward to the time when it is not exceptional to have commissioning editors or CEOs who are people of colour, and likewise â€¦ usual to have bestseller authors and award winners who are writers of colour.â€
The survey also found that the average overall salary in publishing was Â£32,228, up 11.7% on 2013, and that the average starting salary had also risen, to Â£20,470 from Â£17,775 in 2013. â€œThis is what salary transparency does; it helps publishers realise that things are not acceptable and then they can rectify the situation,â€ said Collier. â€œThe industry is improving, but it is a very slow climb up a very high mountain â€¦ If entry-level salaries are poor compared to other industries, why would you work in book publishing?â€
Responses also indicated that men were still being paid more than women, with the current gender pay gap 15.7%. Where men and women were doing the same roles, the gender pay gap was â€œnegligibleâ€, but of those men who responded, â€œmany men tended to be employed in management or senior roles, and many women appear to be in lower rolesâ€.
Collier said that 47.9% of male respondents earned above the average salary of Â£32,228 compared with 31.5% of women: â€œIn 2013, the gender pay gap was 16%, up slightly from 15.4% in 2008, but improved on 18.1% in 2004. However, for an industry where 84.6% of respondents are women, it is disappointing that a gender pay gap occurs at all.â€