Michiel Kolman (MK): What prompted the Brazilian Publishers Association (PA) to launch the initiative?

Flavia Bravin (FB): As publishers and knowledge producers, we have a tremendous responsibility in shaping our readers’ education through the content used in schools and universities. We aim to influence society to become more diverse, inclusive, and equitable. In order to produce diverse content, we needed to ensure that our publishing teams are also diverse. We needed to develop action plans to encourage, share, and support diversity. It all starts with a diagnosis, the starting point is where we are now. This research serves that purpose. It is the first step of an essential and ongoing movement.

What does the initiative aim to achieve?

The survey serves as our diagnosis – we cannot improve and take action on what we have not measured or understood. We need to identify where the problems are, whether our hypotheses are confirmed, and what mindset changes are needed. For example, the editorial field tends to have many women, but do these women reach high leadership positions? We also need to address the lack of representation of black individuals. Are we making progress? Which publishers can serve as case studies? These questions, along with others, are included in the questionnaire. We believe that the data will reveal these differences and provide relevant suggestions and insights.

The dissemination of the research itself is a powerful tool for raising awareness. Here are some excerpts from the text made available to the entire market, to our members, through social media and newsletters:

“Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) are important issues in the publishing industry, which has the role of producing and distributing books and materials that reflect the diversity of society. For a long time, stories and authors from minority groups were neglected by the publishing industry. The industry itself has recognized this and has been addressing it by increasing the publication of authors who represent these minorities.

However, promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion goes beyond authorship. We need to look inward and evaluate the workforce employed by the publishing industry. We believe that in order to create books for everyone, we need to reflect the society we live in. Understanding and mapping the workforce is the first step towards achieving this.”

Was there a focus on diversity among publishing staff or on the content published?

Our initial focus is inside, the team that produces and promotes content. There are several reasons for this. Firstly, as an association, we believe in “walking the talk and talking the walk.” We need to bring a proxy of Brazil’s diversity to the publishers. If our country has a significant population of black individuals (+55%) and women (51.5%), this representation needs to be reflected within the publishing industry.

Furthermore, diversity is not only the right thing to do, but it also fosters innovation, enriches the culture of publishers, and enhances the diversity of themes, illustrations, and characters in the content we publish. The content published is greatly influenced by external demands from the market. However, for the publishing teams, the influence comes from within the association, where we bring up the topic, provide support, and exchange best practices among our members.

Which dimensions of diversity were included in the initiative (gender, race, disability, pride, etc.) and why?

All these dimensions were included. We aimed to be concise, although there could have been many other dimensions. However, as it was the first survey, we focused on the dimensions mentioned in the question: gender, race, disability, and LGBTQIAPN+. We also left space for contributions, suggestions for other dimensions, and new fields.

When you rolled out the initiative, was there any hesitation, resistance, or detractors? How did you overcome these barriers?

The issue was not hesitation or resistance but rather a lack of time. There are many questionnaires and emails to be sent out. The biggest challenge is getting people to respond. We need to reach the right person within each publishersbecause we are asking for a lot of data. We want to know the representation for each category. If the publisher does not have this information readily available, even if we reach the right person, we will not get a response. Some fields require the self-declaration of employees, which means the company needs to have previously conducted a census with its team and update it periodically.

What are the outcomes? Are there any specific success measures?

We have not yet completed the analysis of the survey (we still have a few days for the final responses and tabulation). However, raising awareness, discussing the topic, and identifying key individuals within the publishers are already important outcomes. During the design of the survey, we also gained many insights and learned about trends and best practices in Brazil (and other industries) and the global publishing market. Immersing ourselves in the terminology, bringing the topic to the attention of SNEL’s board, and sharing it with the market have been crucial.

With the results, we are confident that the numbers will speak for themselves regarding the importance and urgency of taking action.

What are the next steps?

After the diagnosis through the research, the next step is to continue raising awareness (using the numbers and identifying areas where we are lagging behind or where the results surprised us) and developing an action plan. We need to establish a timeline, set goals, and ensure ongoing monitoring.

What lessons have been learned reflecting back? What would you do differently if you were to start over?

We would have started earlier. However, since we cannot change the past, the best day to make things happen is today.

This is a topic that generates a lot of engagement but also requires great care. The engagement allows many people to be available to help accelerate the process. Accept and ask for help. Have others review the materials to ensure they are comprehensive and accurate. Seek assistance in raising awareness and expanding the movement’s reach. To amplify the movement and gain momentum.

Regarding care, it is essential to have a deep understanding of the topic to avoid incorrect, incomplete, or even prejudiced approaches, despite good intentions.

What advice do you have for other IPA members?

Start measuring as soon as possible (conduct your own research for diagnosis). Seek benchmarking from other markets in your country and around the world (SNEL, the Brazilian Publishers Association, is available to assist). Invest in literacy, bring the topic to your newsletters and events. Share inspiring case studies as well as the problems caused by publishers with low diversity, inclusion, or representation. Publishers have a responsibility to have a “voice” and “place for writing.”

As a strategic player in shaping culture and education of citizens in your country, this movement is not optional. It is mandatory for publishing associations and publishers to take responsibility and ensure that their workforce reflects the diversity of the market they operate in.