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Developing the publishing workforce

Equip event argues the case for greater equality in the publishing industry.
by Ben Sawtell

nullThe Equality in Publishing (Equip) project and the Department of Creative Practice and Enterprise at City University London welcomed academics and publishing industry professionals to City yesterday for an event entitled 'Developing the Publishing Workforce'.

The day-long event was organised to give an overview of workforce development, equality, diversity and inclusion in the creative sector, with a focus solely on issues within book publishing in the afternoon. It was also an opportunity to update attendees on the progress that Equip has made over the last year, which includes the 150% increase in its membership to 3,800 people.

Equip's Project Manager, Bobby Nayyar, also used the event to launch the results of membership and industry questionnaires that Equip designed in collaboration with the Work Psychology Group

Respondents to the survey of Equip members were overwhelmingly under the age of 35 (94%), female (83%) and white (78%). Industry professionals who answered the survey felt that the most serious workforce issues in publishing were race and age. The survey also revealed that 10% of respondents has done more than five internships and 6% has worked for more that a year with no pay.

The quantitative data from the survey was preceded by an analysis of a series of qualitative interviews with industry figures from Sue Whittle, an Enterprise and Innovation Consultant at City and an expert in organisation psychology.

Whittle processed over sixty hours of audio recordings and found that many of the interviewees had a fixation on the barriers to entry within the industry, which included factors such as 'cost of internships', 'class' and a 'high level of competition' citing an internship scheme that had 1500 applicants for just 25 places.

The interviews revealed a great deal of scope for the work of Equip with interviewees citing the needs for advocacy, education and mentoring schemes. One participant said that far from an ethical issue Equip's job should be to 'show industry of the business case for promoting equality.'

During the course of the interviews conversation frequently turned to skin colour but Nayyar, reminded the audience that equality, "is not just about race," but admitted "that can be a hard message to get across."

Nayyar also sent a message to anyone trying to get into the industry who may feel isolated, "When you are part of an underrepresented community it's easy to believe that you don't have a voice. But I want people to know that through Equip they do."

At the end of a lively, passionate and inspiring talk Nayyar made it clear to the audience that their perseverance in the industry would be rewarded and quoted Robert Frost's poem 'The Road Not Taken':

"Two roads diverged in a wood, and I took the one less travelled by, and that has made all the difference."

Those currently striving to forge a career in publishing may find inspiration in those words and through the work of Equip they will know that they won't be walking that road alone.

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City, University of London is an independent member institution of the University of London. Established by Royal Charter in 1836, the University of London consists of 18 independent member institutions with outstanding global reputations and several prestigious central academic bodies and activities.