Findings of most comprehensive survey of publishing workforce released

NewsPress Release
Image with report title - UK Publishing Workforce: Diversity, inclusion and belonging in 2020 - and Publishers Association and EA Inclusion logos.

The latest findings of the Publishers Association’s UK publishing workforce survey show that while publishing continues to meet its target to employ at least 50% women in senior roles within five years, there has been little progress in its other target of increasing the ethnic diversity of employees.

The survey is the most comprehensive ever undertaken of the publishing workforce, with a total of 14,122 employees from 71 businesses taking part. This is an 11% increase in the number of respondents compared to 2019 and a 25% rise in the number of participating businesses.

Key findings from The UK Publishing Workforce: Diversity, inclusion and belonging in 2020:

  • Over half of executive leadership and senior management roles are held by women (52% and 55% respectively). This compares to 49% and 41% in 2017. Females accounted for 64% of respondents.
  • Representation of people from Black, Asian, and minority ethnic groups has remained around 13% since 2017. 3% of respondents identified as Black or Black British, 6% as Asian or Asian British, 3% as having mixed or multiple ethnicities and 1% of respondents identified as belonging to another minority ethnic group.
  • LGBT+ representation continues to increase with 11% of respondents either identifying as lesbian, gay, or bi, or preferring to self-describe. This figure has more than doubled since 2017 (5%). 0.6% of respondents identified as trans.
  • The representation of people with a disability has increased from 2% in 2017 to 8% in 2020.
  • Almost half of respondents have experienced mental health problems. Compared to the previous year, this increased from 40% to 46%. At the time of the survey, one in five were currently experiencing mental health problems.

Stephen Lotinga, Chief Executive of the Publishers Association, commented:

“There are encouraging findings in this report, particularly in terms of the progress on leadership roles occupied by women and increasing representation of the LGBT+ community.

“However, this year’s survey shows us there is much more to do – and that we are not seeing the desired progress in recruiting and retaining an ethnically diverse workforce. While there are many excellent initiatives, we must accelerate change and as an industry we are committed to increasing our efforts. The Publishers Association will work with publishers and partners this year to review and relaunch our Inclusivity Action Plan in pursuit of this goal.”

The 2020 survey is the fourth commissioned by the Publishers Association. After the initial survey in 2017, industry-wide five-year targets were set to employ at least 50% women in both senior leadership positions and executive level roles and ensure that 15% of employees are Black, Asian and from other ethnic minorities.

Having built the workforce survey up to be the most comprehensive of its kind, the Publishers Association is now beginning to look at creating guidance for publishers around the collection of author ethnicity data. It is also continuing to support the adoption of Publishing Assistant apprenticeships to try and improve access routes into the industry.

The Publishers Association engaged diversity and inclusion specialists EA Inclusion to undertake the workforce survey in 2020. The survey will continue to be conducted annually.


  1. The Inclusivity Action Plan can be found here.
  2. The 2011 Census data shows that, of the population of England and Wales:
  • 86.0% were from White ethnic groups.
  • 7.5% were from Asian ethnic groups.
  • 3.3% were from Black ethnic groups.
  • 2.2% had Mixed ethnicity.
  • 1.0% belonged to other ethnic groups.

Other UK averages can be obtained here.