Publishers Association launches 10 point inclusivity action plan


The Publishers Association has today announced a new 10 point industry-wide action plan to tackle inclusivity within the industry’s workforce to ensure publishers better reflect the UK population.

This plan includes a new commitment to undertake an industry wide survey of the workforce of UK publishing houses, which will be published on an annual basis. This will enable the setting and measurement of industry wide targets to drive progress towards a more representative workforce.

An initial survey of the industry, undertaken by the Publishers Association as part of a scoping exercise to inform this plan, found that women currently account for 49% of senior leadership roles but only made up 41% of executive board level. It also found that Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) employees currently make up 13% of the publishing workforce.

Based on these workforce figures, Publishers Association members have agreed to set industry-wide targets to seek to employ at least 50% of women in both senior leadership positions and executive level roles and ensure that 15% of employees are Black, Asian and ethnic minority people within the next five years. These targets will be reviewed on an annual basis as better data is made available from the survey.

To ensure progress is made on these targets the Publishers Association is asking all members to pledge their commitment to a 10 point action plan, which includes:    

  • Undertaking an internal workforce audit and providing the Publishers Association with the data on an annual basis so that industry wide statistics can be published
  • Developing an inclusivity policy, which is embedded throughout the organisation and which has strong leadership commitment
  • Ensuring all staff involved with hiring attend unconscious bias training
  • Providing opportunities for flexible or agile working
  • Developing a mentoring scheme that supports new staff or those at transitional career stages who are from traditionally underrepresented groups

The Publishers Association is supporting its members in meeting these targets by providing unconscious bias training, promoting best practice and recognising publishers who have demonstrated a commitment to increasing inclusivity through our support for conferences and awards. The PA is also finalising a new Apprenticeship Trailblazer Standard to expand the routes available into the industry.

President of the Publishers Association, Lis Tribe, said:

”The publishing industry has started to work in earnest on reaching out to a wider pool of entrants, and promoting our talented people once they are in. Being more inclusive is socially and morally the right thing to do, as well as making good business sense.

“However, whilst many individual publishers have made progress towards improving diversity within their own companies, tackling inclusivity is something which still needs to be addressed industry-wide. I am delighted therefore that PA members recognise the importance of this agenda, and have asked the PA to support our individual efforts with an action plan including an annual industry survey and published benchmarks.”

I know the Publishers Association will do everything possible to support all its members in their efforts to respond to these issues. Publishing workforce data is a first step but there is a lot more that we should be doing and we’re hoping that the whole book industry joins in this endeavour.”

Minister of State for Digital Matt Hancock said:

“I’m delighted to see the Publishers Association taking steps to address the issue of diversity in the industry.

“It’s absolutely vital all those with the ability and creativity to work in this thriving sector can do so. 

“I commend the plan it has set out for its members and encourage them to take up these necessary targets.”


Notes to Editors

The Publishers Association
The Publishers Association (the PA) represents book, journal, audio and electronic publishers in the UK, spanning fiction and non-fiction, academic and educational publishing. Our members include global companies such as Elsevier, Wiley, Pearson, Penguin Random House, Hachette and the University presses, as well as many independent publishing houses.

Inclusivity action plan

  1. Develop an inclusivity policy, which is embedded throughout the organisation and which has strong leadership commitment
  2. Undertake an internal workforce audit and providing the PA with the data on an annual basis so that industry wide statistics can be published
  3. Ensure all staff involved with hiring attend unconscious bias training
  4. Nominate an inclusivity champion on your board or management committee who can monitor action on equality
  5. Provide opportunities for flexible or agile working
  6. Analyse job descriptions, recruitment strategies and interview practices for hidden biases
  7. Develop a mentoring scheme that supports new staff or those at transitional career stages who are from traditionally underrepresented groups
  8. Ensure there is a balanced speaker panel for any events you are running or speaking on
  9. Consider hiring a Publishing Assistant apprentice or a Creative Access Intern
  10. Become a publishing ambassador, as well as encouraging colleagues to give a careers talk to a local school or university 

Additional activities the PA is doing to support members

  • Sharing best practice amongst the publishing industry on improving inclusivity through the EQUIP Charter and Network which the PA co-runs with the Independent Publishers Guild. The charter also highlights opportunities in the publishing industry to a broad network of under-represented communities.
  • Running a careers in publishing programme, with outreach to schools and universities, providing collateral and materials to promote publishing as a career, including our #workinpublishing week
  • Creating a Guide to a Representative Publishing Industry, offering publishers a guide to the various initiatives working to improve diversity in the creative industries
  • Taking part in the Creative Industries Council diversity subgroup which aims to work collectively to increase diversity across the creative industries.
  • Supporting various initiatives to increase inclusivity in publishing, including the Spare Room Project which aims to address regional diversity and supporting University College London’s new accessible vocational publishing summer course.

How were these targets arrived at?
We arrived at these targets via a benchmarking exercise across PA members, the results of which showed that an initial focus on these two areas could deliver real tangible results. We opted to focus initially on BAME representation in the workforce rather than within senior leadership as we felt it was important to first establish the talent pipeline, while for gender we felt able to set targets for senior positions as this pipeline already exists. These targets will be reviewed and updated as we monitor progress within the sector.

Why within five years?
This was chosen as a realistic target which publishers felt that they would be able to deliver on. We would hope to achieve these targets much quicker and will be monitoring progress annually.

Why have you not set targets for other areas of inclusivity i.e. LGBT, Disability, Social Mobility?
We have decided to set two initial targets in key areas. Members will of course be working to improve and increase inclusivity in all areas, however as an industry it was agreed to focus on two main areas in this initial stage.