Publishing Pledged to Diversify. Change Has Been Slow.

More than three years after nationwide protests over racial inequality led publishers to promise they would reshape their overwhelmingly white industry, a survey showed they made little progress toward creating a more diverse publishing work force.

White workers made up 72.5 percent of the book business in 2023, according to a new report from the publishing house Lee & Low. That marks a slight decrease from 2019, when the survey found that white people accounted for 76 percent of publishing industry employees. In 2015, that figure was 79 percent.

These changes are hardly the transformation many hoped for, and are likely to ignite debate about whether publishing companies have faltered in their pledge to prioritize racial diversity.

The slow pace of progress reflects what many in the book world say are entrenched structural and cultural problems.

“Publishers went out of their way to embrace diversity, equity and inclusion practices, but that intensity seems to be on the wane these days,” said Erroll McDonald, vice president and executive editor at Alfred A. Knopf, who has worked in the industry for 46 years and is one of the few Black executives in publishing’s higher echelons. “Despite all the talk of imminent change, that the industry was going through a revolution and it would look completely different in five or 10 years, that has proven not to be true.”

But Jason Low, the publisher and an owner of Lee & Low Books, a children’s book publisher focused on diversity, said that while change has come slowly, there is reason for optimism.

Related Articles

Back to top button