Nancy Roberts, previously global operations director at Cambridge University Press, is launching a new consultancy to help tackle gender inequality in publishing.
Not-for-profit company Business Inclusivity is aimed at helping publishers address issues of gender inequality in a way which "supports business goals".
Roberts told The Bookseller that she believes there is currently an issue with gender equality in publishing, citing the Bookcareers salary survey which revealed that the gap between pay for men and women was 16% in 2013.
"I am eagerly awaiting the results of this year's survey which are due in September, but I fear that the progress may be slow", Roberts said. "It's also notable that not one publisher has, as yet, produced their gender pay data, which by law if they have over 250 employees they will have to do by April 2018. This suggests that publishers know there are issues to address here. Although publishing is a female-dominated industry, there are very few women in the C-Suite roles [chief executive, chief operating officer, etc], and role models like Gail Rebuck and Victoria Barnsley have been replaced by men; even those organisations with women on the board still don't necessarily pay equitably for the same roles, and given that 70-80% of the workforce is estimated to be women, we feel a long way from that representation in senior roles."
The business intends to help the trade understand that "diversity as a numbers game is not enough" and that there is a need to develop strategies based around inclusion. These include making women feel valued in the boardroom, supporting women to reach senior roles, and creating a space where all ideas are equally respected, Roberts said.
The company will be offering consultancy services that assess how inclusive an organisation is and how they might develop a more inclusive culture in the business. It also offers leadership programmes, with profits from this part of the business to be reinvested into the second strand of activity, which is executive coaching and business advice for women in business and female entrepreneurs.
Roberts said: "Publishing is a female-dominated industry, but sadly this doesn’t necessarily translate into equitable treatment of women at senior levels. I want to use my experience to help women achieve success in the industry, and to enable publishers to leverage the proven business benefits of a more inclusive workplace. My vision is an industry which continues to deliver exciting, informative, wonderful content, but does so in a way which more closely reflects the communities it serves and in which businesses really do benefit from moving to a more inclusive workplace."
She added that many of the challenges publishing faces today can be addressed through creating a more inclusive industry: "We need to innovate more, so we need a range of voices and views in businesses to generate new ideas. We also need to address digital transformation, meaning attracting people to the industry who may not be content with a publishing salary; creating an inclusive workplace could help to attract such people. And - as the recent BBC gender pay row has shown, we need to be seen as fair and to recognise and reward our talent, or our readers and customers will no longer trust us."
Roberts is inviting parties interested in partnering with the business on piloting and developing this data model further, to contact her on 020 3883 8305 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Suzanne Collier, founder of bookcareers.com, blogged about the issue for The Bookseller earlier this month.