I write this still dismayed at the news that Donald Trump is President-elect of the United States of America. During his campaign he called to ban all Muslims from entering America, said he wanted to build a wall at the country’s border with Mexico, and was exposed as having made derogatory comments, at the very least, about women. And that’s not even the half of it.
In light of Trump’s election, it’s more important than ever that inclusivity and diversity are promoted, embraced and celebrated. Last week I edited an edition of The Bookseller about ethnic diversity in the industry, which identified some worrying statistics, but which also featured a series of essays offering hope and inspiration from successful people of black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds in the publishing industry.
In addition to those essays, which you can read here, next week sees the Building Inclusivity in Publishing Conference, run by London Book Fair and the Publishers Association, for which The Bookseller is the media partner. It aims to highlight successes, talk honestly about publishing’s failings on inclusivity, and above all, come up with real, actionable steps to make publishing’s workforce and its output more diverse in all manner of ways.
In a piece for the conference, David Shelley, c.e.o. of Little, Brown and Orion, says there may be some embarrassment at the lack of diversity and inclusivity in the trade, but this is healthy. I agree. We need to face up to the industry’s shortcomings and use that embarrassment to affect real change.
Real change means taking on board the things said at next week’s conference and in the essays we published last week, and then turning them into actions. The industry needs to do, not say – look beyond London when it comes to hiring staff and finding writers, search out marginalised voices and bring them into the mainstream, take cues from other industries, challenge our own experiences and views, and never be afraid to be uncomfortable if it means making the industry more open.
Kindness and tolerance are at the heart of publishing, but they’re no longer enough. Let’s use the conference, and the essays, as a starting point to debate, create and foster greater understanding of people different to ourselves, and let publishing lead the way in standing against hate and division.
I look forward to seeing the actions the industry will take in the coming days, weeks and months.
Sarah Shaffi is online editor and producer at The Bookseller.