Faber unveils plans to tackle under-representation

Faber unveils plans to tackle under-representation

Faber & Faber has unveiled a raft of initiatives to address under-representation of minority groups in the company after its c.e.o. Stephen Page admitted "both the industry and Faber have not yet achieved acceptable representation".

The plan of action, arrived on by a working party established across the company, includes a new BAME Internship and Faber Academy Scholarship, and the continuation of its FAB Prize for BAME children's authors. Page said the company was committed to creating change and considered inclusivity "vital" to its future. 

The pledge follows hot on the heels of the Publishers Association's newly-introduced diversity targets and 10-point plan, which aims to lift the percentage of black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) employees working across the industry to at least 15% within five years, and the percentage of women in executive-level and senior leadership roles to at least 50% over the same time period.

Page said the company had been "successful" in addressing gender equality but not with BAME and other under-represented parts of society.

"Inclusivity is a vital agenda in Faber's plans for the future," said Page. "These measures have been designed by a team from across the company, and will begin to address in a more concerted fashion areas of inclusivity where, I believe, both the industry and Faber have not yet achieved acceptable representation. We have been successful in addressing gender, but despite our efforts, we have not made similar progress with BAME and other under-represented parts of society. It is important to stress that this is an ongoing initiative as we will continue to assess our progress and respond to opportunities to do better. We are committed to creating change both at Faber and in publishing, and these measures will create the opportunity to begin afresh."

The company has created a bursary for a 20-week internship for a person from a BAME background, partnering with Creative Access to help with the recruitment. The internship will see the successful candidate, beginning in September this year, receive training and support from every department. The company intends to make this an annual initiative and to provide mentorship to other shortlisted candidates.

The Faber Academy Scholarship will be launched in spring 2018. It will offer two writers per year tuition-free places on its six-month Writing A Novel course that has turned out novelists including Chloe Esposito and Felicia Yapp, who respectively went on to publish with Penguin Random House and Headline. The aim of the scholarship is to support "writers, from BAME and other backgrounds whose voices might otherwise go unheard".

Head of the Faber Academy Ian Ellard said: "We are extremely pleased and proud to be offering the new Faber Academy Scholarship. It is critical to our literary culture that the publishing industry does everything it can to support writers making work representative of the world as it really exists. The Faber Academy Scholarship can play a particular role in that."

The FAB Prize, which launched in 2016 to discover and nuture new writers and illustrators from BAME backgrounds, crowning Rohan Agalawatta and Lucy Farfort its inaugural winners, will meanwhile become an annual initiative. First prize winners received £500 plus a year of mentoring with Faber and Andlyn. Submissions will open from December.

Leah Thaxton, children’s publisher, said the launch of last year’s inaugural prize "amply demonstrated that there is a wealth of untapped BAME talent that is just not getting seen by agents or publishers". She added: "The range and quality of submissions is reason alone to run the prize. It was also great fun."

Faber will also be engaged in outreach work, partnering with a number of organisations so its staff can promote careers in the publishing industry to children and young adults from a wide range of backgrounds. Activities will include mentorship and hosting open days at the Faber offices. The launch partners are New Writing North, Arts Emergency and learning centre provider IntoUniversity.

The initiatives follow those of a similar ilk from Hachette and Penguin Random House. In November 2016, Hachette UK announced Changing the Story, a programme of ideas and initiatives to encourage diversity and inclusion, driven by staff from across Hachette, led by incoming chief executive David Shelley. The programme began with four principle initiatives, including BAME traineeships, paid internships and the Diverse Leaders Future Mentoring Scheme. Meanwhile, to increase diversity of people at PRH, it has removed the need for a university degree from all its jobs and now only offers paid work experience placements and internships. It has also continued its #JobHack programme to make more young people aware of the opportunities available in publishing and put 400 members of staff through unconscious bias training sessions, and is working to publish more diversely through its WriteNow programme.