No one in publishing can “feel smug” about the issue of gender pay, Hachette c.e.o. David Shelley has said, while urging publishers to also consider intersectionality and unconscious bias when discussing issues of diversity and inclusion.
Speaking at the London Book Fair Quantum conference on Monday 9th April, in conversation with former Nielsen Book v.p. Jo Henry, Shelley discussed the recent publication of Hachette Ltd's gender pay gap data which revealed a "stark" median gender pay gap of 24.71%, a mean gender pay gap of 29.69%, and a median bonus gender pay gap of 62.64%. For the Hachette Group, though, which includes its distribution arm, the figures were better - a median of 1.32% in favour of women and a mean of 14.18% in favour of men.
New government legislation requires companies with 250 or more employees to annually report the median and mean percentage difference in hourly pay and average pay between men and women, along with the difference in bonuses. The Bookseller recently revealed that an overwhelming 84% of people were concerned by their company’s gender pay gap report, with just over half dissatisfied with their firm’s plans to tackle it.
In light of these findings, Shelley emphasised that the whole industry has a “real problem to deal with” and that “there was no-one in publishing who can be feeling smug about this issue”.
However, he believes that the release of the data was “exciting and energising”, with the trade now able to more fully interrogate the issue.
When discussing the gender pay gap in workshops at Hachette, Shelley said it had become clear that transparancy around pay, career progression and conversations about flexible working would be a very important aspect in driving change in the industry.
He also said it was "incredibly important" to consider intersectionality and to bring other aspects of diversity and representation into the conversation.
"Sometimes we risk other things getting lost when we talk about just one thing. [The gender pay gap] is a particular issue for intersectional groups. Women from BAME backgrounds are paid worse than women from non-BAME backgrounds, so it's important that we look at the challenges intersectional groups face."
He added: "We need to be using this very negative set of data as a very positive opportunity”.
Shelley also urged members of the industry to undergo unconscious bias training. "I would encourage anyone to do it. It teaches you we all have unconscious bias and if you’re aware of it you can take steps to try and counter it in your own head. It's undoubtably the reason society is in the state it is, and the more we can do about it the better."
The new chief executive of Hachette UK also discussed the industry's growth in audiobook sales and using data to better understand consumers.
"I don’t think audio is going to be a blip, for us it has doubled in the last two years which is pretty incredible, and I predict it's going to be large part of business. It's a completely different way of transmitting books and content to people", said Shelley. "There are lots of listeners that don’t read books, and there are a dizzying range of demographics listening. In five years time - I put money on it - audio will not be this nice little outlier that is growing a lot, but an absolutely central bit of business”.
Shelley added: "One thing we haven’t done enough of in the past is really try to understand consumers and what consumers want. We have more means to do that now than ever. What I find exciting is that search data is transforming our understanding of consumers. [Focus groups] used to be the way [we accessed consumer data]. now we can see what they're searching on goggle and it gives you so much more insight - sometimes terrifying insight - into the minds of consumers."