How we can help

Publishing needs to take a good hard long look at itself.

On 13/1/15 Suzanne Collier was on a Panel at the Society of Young Publishers (SYP) AGM  #SYPAGM15.  This is blog is slightly edited transcript of her talk.  The bookcareers.com Salary Survey 2013 indicates that diversity is getting worse, with 93.7% of respondents classed as White, against the results of 2008, which reported that 90% of respondents were white.

 

If Publishing truly wants to increase diversity, then the industry needs to take a good long hard look at itself.

It needs to:-

  1. Pay competitive entry level salaries.
  2. Stop all unpaid work experience. Two weeks unpaid work experience should only be available to those still in education, with travel and lunch paid, otherwise all work experience and internships should be paid.   Also I would like to see the re-introduction of work experience for the under 18s.  When did it happen that under-18s were blocked from doing work experience on ‘Health and Safety Grounds’?  We need to open children’s eyes whilst they are in school as to what a career in publishing has to offer.
  3. Offer proper career structure. There are too many Editorial Assistants who want to move on or upwards but they are never given any training or support or the opportunity to be a Junior Editor.  Where is career progression?

But then I ask myself,

Why are a high percentage of people who register on the bookcareers.com CV Clearing House ethnically diverse, yet they don’t seem to be represented in the publishing industry?

Why is it that those of a diverse background seem to “have issues” in the workplace.  I have spoken to at least 5 diverse people who didn’t make their probation period in a new role, or their probation was extended. In one case this seemed to be “nit-picking”.

When I was running a job club for unemployed people, why were the diverse people, some who had fantastic digital skills, with me the longest?  This included candidates who had completed an MA in Publishing.

And then I wonder, although Human Resources may be on board with Diversity, is everyone else in the company on the same page?

Do you know that someone who is Asian might come across as softly spoken in an interview to people they don’t know or are unfamiliar with?  So rejecting them because ”they won’t speak up for themselves at meetings” seems to be rather ignorant

Or that some cultures find it extremely difficult to praise themselves, so that “talking themselves up” at interviews is alien to them.

Or that someone who does not have English as their native language might talk very fast, almost gabbling, or they might be talking very slowly.  Do you know that this likely because of the way they were taught or it is the way their native language is spoken?

I do believe that we should recruit on skills and competencies but we don’t seem to be giving 100% of the population the same opportunities and understanding, based possibly on cultural differences.

I started in publishing straight from school, nothing special – Beal High School, Ilford –  the local comprehensive school, and I like to think that I’ve made some sort of contribution to the publishing industry (hell, I’ve even won an award for my contribution, so yes!) yet today someone from my background can cross publishing off their career list.  There might be many others like me, with so much to contribute, who are blocked from publishing because the industry is now only accepting graduates and above.

At the age of 22 and 5 days, back in 1989, I became the youngest person ever to Chair the SYP.  I never thought that my record would last as long as it has, and definitely not to 2015.  Yet at this moment, unless the industry changes, who knows when it might be beaten?

I would have also expected by the year 2015, for the SYP to have had at least one Chair who is of a diverse background, and my offer is this: – If you are a member of the SYP, are of a diverse background and would like to be considered as a future chair of the SYP, which is a two year process (at least one year on the committee, one year as Chair), then I am happy to personally mentor you for as long as it takes.

Publishing needs to change. We need to work together to make change happen.

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