Diversity in Publishing Study

By | Thursday, June 04, 2020 Leave a Comment
I just ran across "The Diversity Baseline Survey" results from back in January. It's a follow-up to a 2015 study looking at how much diversity there was in the publishing industry. They looked at not just who was in publishing, but in what capacity. Now, with the 2015 and 2019 studies complete, you can start seeing how much measurable progress has been made. Now, admittedly, these studies look across ALL publishing and the specifics that comics folks might be most concerned with are not necessarily in direct correlation with everyone else, but I expect the results would be not dissimilar.

Diversity in Publishing survey results
So what did the study find?

Overall, it seems to be something of a mixed bag. In general, the industry hasn't changed appreciably as far as racial equity goes. There have been some minor improvements in getting getting more women, non-straight people (gay and lesbian representation went down, but bi and pansexual representation increased markedly), and people with disabilities in general.

What's more interesting, though, is where these changes took place. While there was noticeable improvements on several fronts at the executive levels, there was a significant decrease in diversity among editorial. Also noteworthy is that much of the diversity they've found is at the intern level. While this does suggest that there's a greater diversity of people who will soon be coming up through publishing and that they can be encouraged more than previously by upper management, the fact that the middle layer of editorial has backslid could prove problematic. Not only does that mean that more books are being driven (consciously or subconsciously) through a white lens, but it also means there's an additional layer of interference that might (intentionally or unintentionally) drive out those interns as they progress through the industry.

As something of an anecdotal aside, Joseph P. Illidge and Kwanza Osajyefo came up with a list of all of the Black full editors at DC in the past: Joseph P. Illidge and Kwanza Osajyefo. Yup, as far as they could tell, just the two of them. Marvel fares a little better with Christopher Priest, Dwayne McDuffie, Marcus McLaurin, Chris Robinson, and Christian Cooper. Yes, the same Christian Cooper who was in the news last week for a white woman calling the police on him for telling her to leash her dog. However, neither company, I believe, has ever had a Black woman or anyone who might fall under the LGBTQ umbrella as a full editor.

I'll end today with the survey authors' closing statement...
The world has changed a great deal from just four years ago. With so many diverse causes that run parallel to one another that sometimes it can be hard to keep in mind common goals. But until we all start to care about equity, we will not make progress, and any gains the industry makes will continue to be not statistically significant. So, the same questions that we asked four years ago bear repeating: How can company cultures be more welcoming for diverse staff? Do diverse staff members feel comfortable voicing their opinions? Are systems in place to make sure all staff are trained and well versed in diversity issues? And some newer questions to ponder: Have recent conversations on bias and privilege changed your perspective on the systemic problems that exist in society today? Has your empathy grown or receded toward diverse causes in the last four years?

The world is a diverse one. Publishing needs to accurately reflect the world as it is, from the books we publish to the people working in every facet of this business. A lot has happened in four years, and not all of it for the better. Four years from now, what will the next baseline survey show us? And what will those numbers tell us about ourselves?
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