The Guardian just published a report of a survey taken of 34 American book publishers and found that 79% of staff are white and 78% female. Or as The Guardian put it “blindingly white and female” as if it’s some kind of horror show. The rest of the article bemoans the lack of diversity in publishing and our society in general and quotes the author of the study suggesting that these percentages should be monitored.
Is anyone up in arms about appropriate diversity percentages in the NBA or NFL?
Some might roll their eyes and ask me not to trot out that old chestnut. But it’s not a chestnut. It’s a point–nobody cares, me included. So why care about this? Many industries will be skewed toward one gender or race than another. As long as everyone has free opportunity to compete, who gives a flip?
Maybe that still doesn’t satisfy. Okay, how about this. According to Humanites Indicators, approximately 70% of degrees in English language and literature in America are awarded to…women. And about 82% are awarded to Whites. I’m assuming these percentages are probably pretty good indicators for the gender and race of folks interested in working at publishing companies.
If so, the survey results don’t reflect some white woman conspiracy at these publishing houses. They simply reflect the choices people make in college.
By the way, did you know the United States is still 72% White and European. So it’s not surprising to see roughly that many Whites in these jobs. The numbers might be a little high, but minorities seem to be pursuing other degrees in greater numbers (compare the overall percentages here versus those with ELL degrees).
This is not to say that we don’t want to welcome authors from all different background. We do. But if you want more men and more minorities, then maybe instead of monitoring publishers, you ought to start by seeing if you can attract more men and minorities to ELL degrees.
Or even better yet, how about reaching out to more boys and minorities at an earlier age and helping them learn the delights of reading and writing? Maybe if they like it, more of them will go into it as a career.
The best program I’ve seen for helping kids learn to love reading is the one Mary Leonhardt outlines in Keeping Kids Reading: How to Raise Avid Readers in the Video Age. It’s the culmination of the insights she gained over her thirty-five years teaching high school English and focusing on helping kids learn to LOVE reading. What an excellent book!
Oh, and one other idea. It might be effective to maybe just skip publishers altogether and help folks go directly to readers as indie writers. Amazon’s algorithms are pretty much race- and gender-blind.