Diversity is a hot topic, and the Canadian publishing industry gave it dedicated space at the TechForum conference in March 2018. There was a panel on women in publishing, a round table on power, and a dive into diversity data in contemporary fiction. The keynote itself was about “[voices] that have traditionally had a very difficult time reaching mainstream audiences” and “how leaders in [the publishing industry] can reimagine their work and its impact” on the “the connected and vigilant social realities of our times.”
From those various sessions, and speaking specifically with people with more diverse backgrounds and orientations than my own, I garnered the tips presented here. It seemed odd to me that a female dominated industry had diversity issues that include overrepresentation of men in positions of power, but in the staff and in the plots, data shows an overwhelmingly narrow viewpoint. And, oddly for a female dominated industry, most of those viewpoints are male even when the writer isn’t.
First, we must note that the women of color told me that increasing diversity can’t be a responsibility thrust on the shoulders of those whose voices are underrepresented. It’s up to the people already there to make diversity happen. That is why I am presenting these ideas.
Incorporating these practices into our habits will foster diversity in publishing:
- make room for diversity—ask for it, listen to it, and encourage it
- give it monetary support, a budget for initiatives
- ask specifically for marginalized voices—in meetings, in titles, in characters/content, in staff, and in the marketing of titles
- echo the contributions of diverse voices—“I agree with…” or “… brings up an interesting point,” and even “let’s consider what … has said”, then invite them to elaborate for themselves
- mentor a minority person and help them engage in publishing
Sheryl Sandberg, author of Lean In, points out that in a meeting of five people, only two will do all the talking. While there are emotional and cultural reasons people may not feel comfortable speaking in a meeting, everyone in the room can invite input from the quieter people and approach them outside of meetings in an atmosphere that makes them more comfortable speaking.
We can encourage diverse contributions by:
- asking people from underrepresented sectors to contribute
- listening without criticism
- asking for elaboration and setting aside defensiveness
- giving marginalized people credit for their ideas, boldly and repeatedly
- supporting their initiatives, especially when we don’t fully understand them
When we can make publishing at least as diverse as society itself, we be serving the true marketplace, and society.
How can you support diversity in your domain? Log in to leave a comment, or join the discussion over on Facebook or Twitter. You can see this year’s conference slides as well as videos from previous years on the TechForum website.