A first study on industrial diversity

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Surveying publishers large and small, as well as freelancers and independent professionals, the Australian study finds a need for “diverse representation”.

Image: Association of Australian Publishers

By Porter Anderson, Editor | @Porter_Anderson

IPED: “We want to play our role”

OAs many major global publishing markets focus on issues of diversity, equity and inclusion – in terms of the content published and the composition of their teams and staff – the pace and progression of these surveys differ greatly from region to region.

Of the English-speaking markets, the UK is arguably the most advanced and committed to self-assessment and action in this regard. Association of Publishers has long been committed to coordinated 10-step planning and reporting among publishers, with each participating house striving to assess its diversity profile and embark on achievable improvement goals.

In the United States, the Association of American Publishers recently named its Senior Vice President for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. Jonathan M. Walker of George Washington University will report directly to President and CEO Maria A. Pallante.

And at the end of August, the Australian Publishers Association released its first major effort to take stock of how its book business looks to its people.

The association’s president, James Kellow, writes with admirable candor: “We are a publishing industry that offers places for many women and also for many who identify as LGBTQ+, but a home for a few. Indigenous Australians, Australians of non-Anglo-Celtic descent or working-class Australians.

In a show of solidarity, the Australian Institute of Professional Publishers (IPED) has released a statement of strong support for fellow publishers in the organisation.

The organization’s president, Ruth Davies, writes: “Publishers are an integral part of the publishing industry, and we have long known that our demographics reflect the profile described in this landmark report.

“We want to play our part in improving representation in the publishing profession to create a more diverse, equitable and inclusive space and to encourage the sharing of these stories. The Australian publishing industry needs diverse representation more than ever.

Responses to this inaugural industry survey came from 989 people “working across Australia’s publishing industry: children’s, freelancers, academics and journals, schools and education, tertiary and professional, and trade “.

The contribution represents large, medium and small publishing houses as well as freelancers and independent professionals.

With a total number of publishers between 3,700 and 6,300, the answer is assessed between 15.6 and 26.75% with a confidence level of 99% and a margin of error of 4%.

Main results of the Australian study

Image: Association of Australian Publishers

Here are some frontline data points from this new Australian report, authored by Susannah Bowen and Beth Driscoll of the University of Melbourne, who co-sponsored the project with the publishers’ association.

  • 84% of survey respondents were female and 2% self-identified as non-binary or “other”
  • Less than 1% of Australian publishing industry professionals identify as First Nations
  • 10.5% identify with a non-British European culture and 8.5% cite an Asian cultural identity
  • 21% of respondents identify as LGBTQ+, compared to 11% in the Australian population
  • 35.4% of respondents said they had mental health issues when taking the survey, compared to 25% of respondents to a similar survey of the UK publishing industry in 2021
  • 24.7% of publishing professionals report having a long-term health problem or disability, including a physical or mental health problem.
  • 5.2% of respondents say they have a disability
  • 24.8% of respondents were in locations other than Sydney or Melbourne.
  • 33.6% of respondents said they came from backgrounds that could be described as lower middle class or working class.
  • 48% of respondents attended private schools, compared to around 30% in the Australian population.
  • More than 85% of respondents have a degree and more than half have at least a postgraduate degree. This compares to 24% of the Australian population holding an undergraduate degree

In discussions of the findings provided as part of the new study, report authors Driscoll and Bowen write that when asked “What improvements, if any, can be made to improve the level of diversity in your organization or your networks and create a more inclusive culture? ?” the most common theme of 362 respondents to this question cited diverse recruitment as fundamental to changing the profile of the industry.

Image: Association of Australian Publishers

Specific suggestions include:

  • Publish job offers more widely and through channels different from the usual channels
  • Addressing Structural Racism in Recruitment Processes
  • Using quotas and other deliberate efforts to employ people different from those hiring

The full survey is available on the website of the association of publishers.


A version of this story was published in our Frankfurter Buchmesse trade fair magazine, available to our global readership in a free digital download online. The magazine originally appeared in print on the Messe Frankfurt for trade visitors during the opening of the Frankfurt Book Fair.

The magazine features extensive coverage of the issues and trends that drove the discussions and debates at the show this year, as well as interviews, profiles and commentary in this year from Frankfurt very busy. Click here for your download (PDF).

More about Frankfurter Buchmesse is heremore about international trade in rights is here, learn more about this year’s guest of honour, Spain is heremore information on guest of honor programs and markets is heremore about the east australian market heremore about international book fairs is hereand more on industry statistics is here.

Learn more about the ongoing COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic and its impact on international book publishing is here.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson is a non-resident member of Trends Research & Advisory, and was named International Business Journalist of the Year at the London Book Fair’s International Excellence Awards. He is editor of Publishing Perspectives. He was previously associate editor of The FutureBook at The Bookseller in London. Anderson was a senior producer and anchor for CNN.com, CNN International and CNN USA for more than a decade. As an art critic (National Critics Institute), he has collaborated with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which is now owned and operated by Jane Friedman.

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