Michiel Kolman, Chair of the IPA’s Inclusive Publishing and Literacy Committee, spoke to Val Garside, Human Resources Director at Penguin Random House UK about their work on diversity and inclusion.

Michiel Kolman (MK): Tell us a bit about the overall DEI strategy at PRH? What are the key objectives in the UK? Is this part of an international effort? 

 Val Garside (VG): Our inclusion strategy at Penguin Random House UK has three aims:

  • To achieve representation in all teams, at all levels. We want our company to reflect the rich diversity of UK society as we know we need a workforce where a range of backgrounds are represented in order to publish boldly and creatively. Our goal is for the demographic makeup of new hires and senior leaders to reflect society, as measured by the UK census.
  • To create a culture where everyone can belong. We want to create a culture where everyone feels able to be themselves at work. Our goal is for all colleagues to feel an equal sense of belonging, regardless of their background.
  • To publish books for everyone. By publishing authors and books that reflect and reach all areas of society, we can help readers understand more about themselves and the world around them. Our goal is for new authors to reflect society, again using the UK census as our benchmark.

We share information about how we are working towards each aspect of the strategy in our annual Diversity & Inclusion Report.

Our strategy and activity reflects the particular inclusion challenges we face as a UK publisher however it connects to inclusion work in other Penguin Random House territories, as well as the Social Impact strategy of our parent company, Bertelsmann. We share best practice and learning across territories via our Leadership Team and the Inclusion Action Group which our UK CEO, Tom Weldon, chairs.

MK: PRH shared some very interesting DEI data on diversity pay gaps, not only around gender but also ethnicity, social-economic, sexuality and disability. Can you pls tell me some more why you are collecting the data and also how you collect data as typically companies only report gender pay gap data in the UK. How did you address issues around legal and cultural barriers to collect these data on employees?

VG: In 2017, the UK became one of the first countries in the world to introduce mandatory gender pay reporting for companies with more than 250 employees. While it is not mandatory to report on the pay gaps for other demographic groups, we have made the decision to publish this additional data because we believe it’s fundamental to help us understand and measure the progress we’re making towards our diversity and inclusion goals, and identify where to take further action. In particular, it provides an important barometer to track the progress we’re making towards our goal of representation in all teams, at all levels.

By tracking our pay gap for each demographic group as well as measuring representation versus wider UK society, we will better understand not just how diverse our organisation is, but also how equitable the spread of roles is for different groups. It will also highlight where we need to prioritise hiring and progressing talent from different backgrounds.

We encourage colleagues to share their data through an annual inclusivity survey. As there is no legal obligation for colleagues to disclose which groups they identify with, and given this is personal, sensitive data it is right that our colleagues can decide whether they wish to share their data with us.

As well as offering clear explanations of how we collect, store, and use personal data, we believe the best way to encourage more people to provide their data is to share the impact of the actions we take as a result. The more we can show that positive change results from the insight we gain from having access to this data, the more likely our colleagues are to share this information with us.

MK: Focusing on pay gap data, what were the outcomes? How large were the different pay gaps and did you see them increase or decrease? How do you interpret these data?

VG: Many companies’ pay gaps are not driven by equal pay issues, but instead by uneven representation within their business. Specifically, the uneven representation of different groups at different levels within an organisation, or across different job roles where certain types of roles attract higher market premiums. These are the reasons pay gaps exist at Penguin Random House UK. For example, there are fewer disabled colleagues in our senior roles compared to early career roles, and there are fewer women than men in the Technology department.

Our most recent data showed increases in our ethnicity, sexual orientation, and socio-economic pay gaps. Our disability pay gap has reduced, with more disabled colleagues at all levels of the organisation. Our median gender pay gap has remained the same, and we’ve seen a slight increase for the mean measure, predominantly because of the gender mix of new joiners and leavers at different career levels.

As we focus on ensuring that our new hires reflect the UK population, we are likely to see bigger increases in the number of colleagues from underrepresented backgrounds in early career roles, where we have significantly more job vacancies. In the short term, this will widen our pay gaps. This is because the faster-growing representation at early career level contrasts with the slower-moving changes at a senior level, where roles and vacancies are fewer and transformation takes place more slowly.

MK: What are the next steps now that you published the 2022 pay gap data?

VG: While we know it will take time to achieve our goal of reflecting the diversity of UK society, including amongst senior leaders, we are working hard to embed inclusive practices and initiatives to help make more positive progress each year. Information about the specific projects currently underway to make Penguin Random House UK a more inclusive and diverse employer are available in our annual Diversity & Inclusion Report.

What is clear is that our efforts to hire more inclusively are working. Equally important is supporting the development and progression of talent from all backgrounds up through the organisation, including into more senior roles. Although that too will take time, in the longer term we hope to see a positive net effect as a result, with a future narrowing of the gap.

We will continue to publish our pay gap data annually so we can measure changes and take action accordingly. Alongside this, we will keep encouraging more colleagues to provide their data so we can make sure our demographic data – and by extension our pay gap data – is increasingly more accurate.