No change to publishing's BAME numbers, PA survey finds

No change to publishing's BAME numbers, PA survey finds

Representation of people from Black, Asian, and minority ethnic groups in the publishing industry has “stalled” at a static 13% for the past three years, according to the Publishers Association’s latest annual workforce survey.

The trade body praised the industry on the proportion of women in senior management and leadership positions–now more than 50%, compared with just 36% of FTSE 100 boards–and on increasing representation of people with disabilities and those who identify as lesbian, gay or bisexual. However, it said the results pertaining to BAME staff served as “a stark reminder we must do much more to attract, retain and progress staff from these groups”.

Representation of people from BAME groups has not changed since 2017, according to the findings of the survey carried out between July and October 2020 and compiled by EA Inclusion. Remaining at around 13%, BAME staff are still underrepresented in the trade, below the population of England and Wales, at 14% according to the ONS’s 2011 census data–and well short of London’s 40%–and also short of the Publishers Association’s target of 15% by 2022.

Breaking it down, the proportion of survey respondents identifying as Black/Black British remains unchanged from 2019, at 3% (the same as the population of England and Wales), while the proportion of respondents identifying as Asian/Asian British remains at 6%, as in 2019 (still two percentage points below the 8% population of England and Wales). Again akin to 2019, 3% of respondents identified as having mixed or multiple ethnicities (one percentage point more than the ONS data). 

Well below London’s population of 40% (ONS), the representation of respondents from BAME groups living in London was 16%. Although people from Black/Black British ethnic groups make up 13% of the London population, only 2% of PA survey respondents living in London identified as Black/Black British – a stark gap of 11 percentage points. People from Asian/Asian British ethnic groups working in the trade and living in London were also shown to be significantly underrepresented, at 7% versus 19% in the London population.

Large businesses and small and medium-sized enterprises fared similarly, with people from BAME groups representing 13% and 12% of total staffers respectively. By sector, academic publishing was shown to have the highest representation of people from BAME groups (14%), followed by education (12%) and consumer (11%).

Looking at class, meanwhile, the PA said socio-economic background and education “continue to represent major barriers to inclusion”. Guided by a classification system that is based on the occupation of the primary household earner during respondents’ childhood, the results showed nearly three quarters (74%) of respondents had a “middle class” determinant, compared to only 55% in the UK population. By department, editorial (81%), rights (81%), and digital (80%) all had significantly higher representation of respondents of middle-class origin compared with those in HR (30%) and operations (28%). By sector, those working in academic publishing were most likely to be middle class, an overwhelming 90% of respondents fitting the classification, followed by 76% in education and 72% in consumer publishing.

More positively, the survey showed representation of people with a disability has increased four-fold, from 2% in 2017 to 8% in 2020. Although the proportion of disabled people in the UK’s working age population is 19%, the PA said it believed the difference was “not too negative a finding”, taking into account the disability employment gap (54% compared to 82% for people without disabilities) and targets set by the likes of Barclays and the BBC (9% and 12% respectively).

Progress was also to be found in the proportion of LGB+ respondents, at 11%, up from 8% in the trade in 2018, and higher than the estimated 3% in the UK’s population. This said, LGB+ openness at work “remains low”, the PA said, with 24% disclosing they are not open about their sexual orientation with colleagues, an increase of five percentage points compared to how the same question was answered two years ago. Transgender people made up 0.6% of respondents versus 1% in the UK according to the Government Equalities Office.

More people and businesses took part in the 2020 survey than ever before, at a total of 14,122 employees from 71 businesses, an increase of 11% in the number of respondents and 25% in the number of participating businesses compared to 2019’s survey.

The Publishers Association has pledged to continue to expand the survey and to review and update its Inclusivity Action Plan. While welcoming publishers’ efforts to voluntarily publish ethnicity pay gap reports, it also intends to launch a new cross-industry initiative focused on data collection for author ethnicity.