In response to Monday's Day of Solidarity, which saw more than 1,100 publishing workers demanding that the industry take action to diversity its workforce and to publish more black authors, three of the Big Five publishers issued statements saying that they will do just that.
Penguin Random House had the most comprehensive response. In a letter sent to its American employees, the board of Penguin Random House US acknowledged that while the company has made progress in diversifying its workforce and the types of books it publishes, it must do more on both counts. Last fall, the publisher established the Diversity & Inclusion Council and, in its letter, the board announced some of the actions it will be implementing.
PRH said that while it has published “groundbreaking Black authors,” it said “our company and our industry haven’t published enough works by authors of color. We can, and must, do much more, and in particular, we must live up to our goal of publishing books for all readers.” PRH also said that to publish more diverse books, the company needs to create a more diverse and inclusive employee population and culture.
Among the actions announced by PRH are a donation to the Equal Justice Initiative, an increase in its donation to We Need Diverse Books, and an expansion of its partnership with WNDB that includes becoming the inaugural sponsor of the Black Creatives Fund, a fund that will focus on encouraging and amplifying the work of black creatives who have written adult or children’s books.
The company is also upping its anti-racism training and making it mandatory for all employees. The board will participate in training right away and then rollout programs. Until PRH selects a company to work on the anti-racist program with, it will start a company-wide read: How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi, which will be assigned to all employees, along with support materials to facilitate discussions in every team across the company. PRH expects Kendi to take part in a company-wide town hall event, which will serve to launch the anti-racism training program.
PRH also promised to share with employees statistics related to its current workforce demographics, and those findings will be used to set and clear goals for increasing PRH’s diversity at all levels. To increase the number of books by people of color it publishes, PRH is conducting an audit of its publishing programs to set a baseline from which it can grow the number of books it publishes by diverse authors.
The Day of Solidarity led Hachette Book Group’s executive management board to expand its current initiatives for expanding diversity of all kinds and work immediately on some "important changes," according to a spokesperson.
Among the initiatives in the works are sharing with employees metrics HBG has previously shared with managers on staff diversity and list diversity; setting goals for hiring diverse staff and for publishing diverse voices that HBG agrees to work toward; and expanding its unconscious bias training and accelerating HBG's equity and inclusion training for senior managers. "These broad diversity initiatives will include specific actions to support the discovery and publication of Black voices and the recruitment and hiring of Black applicants," the spokesperson said.
A Simon & Schuster spokesperson issued a statement noting that the company agrees with its employees on the need for change. “We are committed to working with our employees, authors and the publishing community to make our company and our industry a safe and inclusive environment for all, and a publisher of works that represent the breadth and depth of our diverse population,” the statement said in part.
HarperCollins and Macmillan did not respond to request for comment.