Felicia Gullotta // Blog Writer
It’s a problem even STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Medical) fields face—a lack of diversity. In publishing the lack of diversity can be harder to find especially, if you don’t know where to look. While on the surface it looks like publishing is over saturated with women, 78.2 percent women in fact according to a study conducted by Lee & Low Books, the problem arises when you look at the upper levels of management, where a majority of positions are held by men. So, even though there are fewer men in the industry, they still hold most of the high level positions. Something is keeping women from having the same longevity in their publishing careers as men.
The problem of diversity isn’t only found amongst genders, but show low numbers when it comes to people of different races. The same study by Lee & Low Books found that 79 percent of the publishing industry is White/Caucasian. The overall industry is only 4 percent Black/African-American, 7 percent Asian/Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander, and 6 percent Hispanic/Latino/Mexican. And those were the highest percentages for minorities in the industry. Only 1 percent of publishing identifies as Middle Eastern and less than 1 percent identify as Native American/Alaskan Native. Just as there are fewer women in executive positions than men, there are also few people of color in publishing.
While many publishers offer internships for collegiate level students, these internships are often unpaid or are reserved for students from prestigious institutions. This can make it difficult, if not impossible, for financially struggling students to have the same opportunities as their privileged peers at gaining such vital experience. If publishing houses could offer paid internship opportunities, this could relieve the financial barriers many students come up against when trying to make a living while gaining industry experience. Internships, unpaid or paid, that are geared towards students who are minorities would help generate a new wave of future applicants that are more diverse. These internships would also be a way of showing there is a place for people of minorities in an industry that currently does not reflect the diversity it should have.
It would also be beneficial to give those interns mentors during their time at the publishing house. Though more women than men enter the publishing industry, it is men whose careers hold more longevity. The glass ceiling exists even in an industry where the entry level positions are dominated by women. If female interns were given female mentors who hold a high rank in the company, it would be encouraging to see someone, potentially like themselves, in a position of power knowing that one day that could be them too. The same goes for the internships for students of minorities.
The diversity problem that the publishing industry faces has no quick and easy fix. However, if publishing houses become more open to trying different solutions, and actively work towards creating more diversity, we’ll see the numbers equalize. As long as there is an effort to make change, change can happen.