Diversity: How Does Publishing Stack Up?

Everyone knows the U.S. still faces struggles around the issue of diversity, and unfortunately the publishing industry is no exception. We’ve still got a huge wage gap between men and women, and it’s largely being swept under the rug. There is still a lack of content being published by and for minorities. Things are looking pretty bleak. But no worries, there is still hope for us.


To me, it comes as no surprise there’s still a wage gap between men and women in the publishing industry. Normally, I would blame this on my pessimism. But it’s only pessimism when it isn’t true. According to the 2016 Salary Survey published by Publisher’s Weekly, men on average earned about 30 percent more than women. The reason for this gap? The higher paying publishing jobs, like management, are dominated by men who, on average, have eight more years’ experience in publishing than women. So even though there are more women working in the field, they are often left with the lower-level, lower-paying jobs.


Sure, you may be thinking, it’s great there are more women than men in the publishing industry. This technically makes it a more diverse and progressive field. But that isn’t really the case when women aren’t being properly compensated for their efforts or given the equal opportunity to move up on the career ladder. And this isn’t just a problem for women.


People of color also experience their own problems as a minority in the field. On experiences in the workforce, top complaints varied from low salary and increased workload to lack of advancement and recognition—not all that uncommon among people of color in general. Not to mention the Publisher’s Weekly survey concluded 88 percent of publishing employees identify as white. That’s right, 88 percent. That means Hispanic, Asian, African American, and Mixed race identities are left to comprise the remaining 12 percent. This huge differences make it very clear publishing is not as progressive as we thought.


Now, let’s talk about something people don’t normally think about when it comes to diversity: disability. It’s something most of us take for granted and hardly ever apply to careers, but is an everyday reality for some. In Lee & Low Books’ 2015 Diversity Baseline Survey, 7.6 percent of publishing staff identified as having a disability, mostly in the design and book review fields. Even though ability and disability are broad terms, I’d say that these fields are probably more work-from-home friendly for those with mobility limitations than, say, sales or management. Since ability isn’t at the forefront of most people’s minds, it makes sense these accommodations would occur less frequently in publishing, as well as other fields.


It’s time to face the facts that diversity isn’t where it should be when it comes to publishing. But even though the picture might look discouraging, believe it or not, diversity is getting better. It’s most obvious when you compare today’s numbers to the ones from ten or twenty years ago. Compared to then, progress is booming! Recognizing the problem is the first step and people both in and outside of the field are definitely taking notice. It can only get better as long as people keep fighting to break through and step into the spotlight.