On Wednesday, we attended the first ever Equality in Publishing, or ‘EQUIP’ conference, held at City University London. The day was filled with many different and diverse speakers and panels and the key topic of debate was “Developing the Publishing Workforce”. Throughout the day, the on-going discussion was, what barriers still exist to equality within the publishing workforce and what can be done to help rectify this situation.
The conference was organised by Bobby Nayyar, the Project Manager of EQUIP in conjunction with the host, City University and Mary Ann Kernan, the course leader of the City Publishing MA and an EQUIP member. Key speakers and organisations involved included Creative Skill Set; Rebecca Swift, Director of the Literary Consultancy; Sophia Blackwell, Marketing Manager at Bloomsbury; and Leila Dewji, Editorial Director at Acorn Independent Press. Mary Ann Kernan and Bobby Nayyar also both gave very interesting lectures.
It was established early on that the main barriers to a diverse and equal publishing workforce include ethnicity, socio economic status, gender and sexual orientation. One of the key issues that was acknowledged, was that if children did not develop an interest in books and reading from an early age that they would not grow up to be interested in a career in publishing. One thing that stops young children from having an interest in reading and words is if there is not content that features similar characters to their own backgrounds. It was shown that there is not enough quality material and content for children from minority backgrounds, which stunts their interest in books at a young age if they cannot identify.
The representatives from Creative Skill Set described why a diverse workforce in publishing is important. First of all, having people from all different backgrounds will equal greater creativity in problem solving and job performance. The company will also then have a great source for understanding of local markets and customers.
Another concern that was brought up was the continuation of unpaid internships. It is argued that these continue to drive a class divide in the publishing workforce where only those from privileged backgrounds can gain important experience.
By the end of the day, many important issues had been brought up and ideas for solutions were being formed. It will be an exciting next few years in publishing and with such dedicated professionals committed to furthering equality, great strides will be made.