Since 2021, when I joined Bloomsbury as diversity and inclusion manager, the company has implemented several initiatives to improve diversity, equity, and inclusion. We have a clear global action plan and, across the business, we are engaged in delivering it. From those running and participating in our Staff Networks, to those leading on widening access and outreach initiatives, to the colleagues who work to improve our policies and procedures for the benefit of all employees–it is truly a team effort. We are proud to have been recognised for our efforts in such a short space of time, winning the London Book Fair International Excellence Award for Inclusivity in Publishing and the Independent Publishers Guild Diversity & Inclusivity Award in 2022–and we have been shortlisted for both again in 2023!
At the recent launch of the Publishers Association Inclusivity Action Plan there was a clear thirst for sharing knowledge and expertise across industry on DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) and to work collectively as an industry rather than as individual publishers; this is not an area of business we need to be competitive on, as a group effort will diversify the talent pool of the industry’s staff, authors, and creators as a whole.
Working together to diversify the industry
Across the board publishers, authors, and other groups such as Pride in Publishing and The Black Writers Guild have emerged organically and are now working together to diversify the publishing industry. I am really inspired by Penguin Random House, which created its #MerkyBooks imprint five years ago; The Jhalak Prize, which celebrates books by British/British resident BAME writers; Dialogue Books, which has been amplifying voices often excluded from the mainstream; and Inklusion, which has just launched its guide on making literature events accessible to disabled people.
We know that we need to make the publishing industry a more welcoming environment for those from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds. At Bloomsbury, we have made great progress with our ongoing publishing apprenticeship scheme; since 2021, we have welcomed 26 apprentices to Bloomsbury in partnership with LDN Apprentices. We also want to help make young people aware of the different types of roles available in publishing, and so have joined up with Unpacking the Credits, a campaign in collaboration with the Mayor of London that produces short films, and education and web resources on publishing and other creative industries.
Highlights from the inaugural Bloomsbury Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Report include enhancing parental policies to promote gender equality, publishing more diverse voices, including Nobel Prize-winners Wole Soyinka and Abdulrazak Gurnah, and launching Bloomsbury’s first ever Learning & Development Programme.
And this drive to be more inclusive is paying dividends. As we create more spaces of belonging, we are attracting more talent from diverse backgrounds and from all walks of life to meet the targets that have been set. The percentage of Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic (BAME) employees at Bloomsbury has increased from 19% in 2019 to 23% in 2021, well ahead of our target of 20% for 2024. We have also seen an increase in the percentage of female employees in leadership positions, from 53% in 2019 to 61% in 2021.
Change is not confined to our company. We want to make an impact in the communities that we work in, and are an official partner of Penguin Random House and the Runnymede Trust’s flagship DEI initiative, the Lit in Colour campaign. Under the Methuen Drama imprint, Bloomsbury’s contribution focuses on the drama and play portfolio, working with schools to introduce new plays and create more representative and inclusive drama experiences within the English curriculum. In 2021, we donated more than 4,000 copies of set texts by BAME writers to U.K. schools for GCSE and A-Level English Literature as part of Lit in Colour’s Pearson’s Pioneer initiative. It really demonstrates that when we come together as an industry, and pool our knowledge and resources, we can make meaningful change.
As an industry, our commitment to this work is not only important from a moral and ethical standpoint, but also essential for business success. Diverse and inclusive organizations, and their associated partners and communities, are more innovative and creative, have higher employee engagement and retention, and are better able to meet the needs of a diverse customer base.
We’re looking forward to what is coming next for diversity, equity, and inclusion at Bloomsbury, as we work towards making our actions global and responsive to the needs of our business and the industry, and continuing to amplify those who are unheard.
Annie Muyang is the senior diversity and inclusion manager at Bloomsbury Publishing.