Michiel Kolman (MK): The UK PA launched their Inclusivity Action Plan earlier this year. Congratulations! What was the outcome of the previous Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) strategy plan? In which way is the new Action Plan different?

Dan Conway (DC): Like everything else in the world, diversity and its place in society is constantly changing. The need to reassess and improve D&I strategies is imperative in order to ensure we are making the right moves forward to create a fairer and more representative world. We always intended to revisit our D&I strategy after five years, and to create something even better and more collaborative.

Created alongside our D&I partners Creative Access, the plan sets out ten commitments for publishing businesses to undertake over the period 2023 to 2026. The pledges outlined in the plan aim to promote equality of opportunity, drive action, and empower individuals working within the UK’s world-class publishing industry. We invited various stakeholders from across the industry to join focus groups that have helped us create each pledge.

We’ve really tried to push the boundaries and be ambitious with the Inclusivity Action Plan, as this is what is going to drive real change in our industry.

MK: Let’s talk D&I data for our industry in the UK. When was the last industry wide survey done? What were key conclusions? Are you planning to continue with annual surveys?

DC: The last survey was conducted towards the end of 2022 with results released in early 2023.

This was the sixth year in a row in which we have conducted the research. Key findings from the latest survey were:

  • Females continue to dominate the workforce, accounting for two thirds of respondents (66%), with an increasing proportion of executive leadership and senior management positions being held by females (56% and 60% respectively).
  • Representation of people from ethnic minority groups (excluding White minorities) has increased to 17% from 15% in 2021.
  • LGBT+ representation has increased, with 15% (up from 13% in 2021) of respondents either identifying as lesbian, gay, or bi, or self-describing their sexual orientation, a figure which has grown each year since 2017 (5%) – and as in 2021, 1% of respondents identified as trans.
  • The representation of people with a disability or long-term health condition has increased from 2% in 2017 to 16% in 2022 (up from 13% in 2021).
  • Socio-economic background continues to represent major barriers to inclusion, with two thirds (66%) of respondents being from professional backgrounds.

Within our Inclusivity Action Plan we committed to a new research approach and conducting a bi annual survey. We will be changing our methodology from this year so that we can look at intersectionality which we feel is really important. Our previous approach wouldn’t allow us to do this. We are just finalising details of this and can confirm more detail shortly. We plan to conduct the survey in the next couple of months.

MK: Talking about our people in the publishing industry, we have many different diversity dimensions. Where do you think we made the most progress? Where is the biggest challenge?

DC: The industry has done a really great job of moving the needle when it comes to diversity, but it is really important that we never become complacent. Over the years we have seen an increase in representation of people from ethnic minority groups,  LGBT+ representation and representation of people with a disability or long-term health condition. However, socio-economic background continues to represent major barriers to inclusion, that we must work harder to address.

MK: Mental health and long-term illness is also covered by the latest survey. The results can be considered alarming. Tell us a bit more and what can be done to change this around?

DC: Attitudes to mental health are really changing in society, and we are seeing some movement on this within publishing businesses. It is refreshing to see organisations stand up and listen to the needs of their employees, both in mental health and when it comes to illness. I hope that this continues to become common practice.

MK: One way to address Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) is through Internships, e.g. for Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) staff. Is there such a program in the UK? If so how is that going?

DC: Lots of our members have programmes like these within their businesses, to both develop the talent they already employ into more senior roles, and to encourage people from different backgrounds to consider a career in publishing. Creative Access, who helped with our Inclusivity Action Plan, also works with many of our members (and the Publishers Association) to place diverse talent. It’s really important to support these schemes, and they are a great way of introducing publishing to people who may not have considered it as an option for them Retaining and developing people is also vital.

MK: What advice would you have for IPA members on DEI from your experience at the UK PA?

DC: DEI should be at the front and centre of everything we do in publishing. The world around us is constantly changing, and we must make sure that our workforce and wider industry is a fair representation of that. We must work together, challenge each other to do better, and always be setting the most ambitious goals that we can aim to achieve. It is not always easy, but listen to the range of voices around you. It is our responsibility to put the right mechanisms in place to make some real meaningful change.