In Penguin Random House’s 2021-2022 Global Social Impact Report, released in August, the top publisher observed that its “workforce must reflect” the society it serves. But according to PRH’s staff demographics report, that task might be easier said than done in an industry that has been mostly white for so long.
In figures captured in October 2022, PRH reported that Black workers represented 6% of non-warehouse workers in 2021, up from 4% in 2020, and 4% of warehouse workers, compared to 3% in 2020. Hispanic workers made up 7% of non-warehouse workforce and 12% of its warehouse workforce. And Asian employees accounted for 10% of its non-warehouse employees, up from 8% in 2020 and 7% percent of its warehouse workers.
When compared to PRH’s 2020 report, the figures show marginal improvement in PRH's DEI efforts; overall, 74% of PRH’s non-warehouse employees were white in 2021, down from 78% previously, as was 75% of its warehouse staff, down from 80% in 2020.
According to PRH diversity equity and inclusion executive v-p Kim Shariff, the numbers reflect the complexity of addressing a deep-rooted issue. “Diversification is a complex and multi-faceted issue given that publishing has historically been a predominantly white, monocultural industry,” she told PW. “Numerous systemic barriers and challenges play a part in this—one of which is that the industry has long-been opaque and difficult to break into without the right connections, access or background knowledge.”
Beyond attracting new talent, bolstering efforts to retain, promote, and provide growth and development opportunities for current employees in underrepresented groups is also an equally important priority for the publisher, said Shariff. With the release of this year’s report, PRH also gave an update on its internal and external programs to expand diversity, which included expanding its recruitment outreach and partnerships team and enhancing its social media presence to be more accessible for those who want to know more about publishing.
“Changing these deep-rooted aspects of our industry takes time, but we are on this journey for the long haul and deeply committed to building a more diverse, equitable and inclusive workplace,” said Shariff. Addressing the publishing world’s historically low salaries for entry-level positions is a small part of that, she explained.
“Rather than focus on salary alone, we’ve approached diverse recruitment and retention issues more holistically. Our work centers on building an equitable and inclusive workplace culture that provides our employees with a welcoming and respectful professional home where they can develop and grow their careers,” she said. “Additionally, almost all of our non-distribution center positions are now remote-friendly, which gives our employees more flexibility to live outside of NYC in areas with a lower cost of living if they choose to.”
PRH uses U.S. Census data as a key benchmark to direct its diversification goals. Following through on a pledge the company made in June 2020, Shariff said a near-term goal is for its new hire demographics to “reflect U.S. working age population demographics by 2024.”
She added, “The complexity of these issues means we must tackle the diversification of our workforce from multiple angles. From increasing access to publishing through partnerships and outreach efforts to ensuring our hiring processes are free of bias, we’re working to open the pathways to our industry for all.”
Read PRH’s complete 2022 demographics report.