D&I high on the agenda at Frankfurt Book Fair 2017

Last week, in common with many publishing friends, I attended the marathon of beer, bratwurst, blisters, meetings and aisle encounters that is the Frankfurt Book Fair. I was hugely encouraged to see Diversity and Inclusion featuring heavily, both on the official agenda at STM and the fair, and unofficially in my discussions with publishers. So here’s what we talked about, in case you weren’t able to attend.

The STM panel had a brave discussion about the complexities of tackling the issues, with particular reference to attention to language: in the US we talk about people of colour, in the UK we are more likely to use BAME; how do we get this right in global organizations? How comfortable are we talking about disability in the workplace? There was also debate about how to address issues of exclusion for staff who may not feel comfortable self-identifying as, for example, disabled, LGBT or working class. These groups may feel unable or unwilling to voice their identity and of course that must be respected, but how do we mitigate the risk of then excluding these voices from the discussions? These are not easy questions and there are no definitive answers, but I salute the courage of the panel in raising the issues and not shying away. Better to try, fail and do better next time than never to try at all.

There was also a lot of discussion amongst publishers about how to actually take action on diversity and inclusion.  A major theme that kept coming up was, how we do ensure that targeted diversity efforts do not have the unintended effects of alienating other groups, and how do we maintain a workplace in which everyone can feel included while we work to build representation at all levels for historically under represented groups? How do we include everyone? Again there are no magic bullets here but I have included some resources below which may provide food some inspiration.

Overall, though, for the first time it felt to me like publishers were genuinely aware of the lack of diversity in the industry and willing to talk about how it can be addressed. There is much work to do, but it was encouraging and empowering to sense a genuine willingness to feel the fear and do it anyway.

If you need help starting out on a diversity and inclusion journey, contact us to see if we can support you.

We are all responsible for challenging bias at work - this HBR article has some interesting things to say on this issue

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Starting out on this journey can be daunting, but a checklist can give a sensible place to start. This one may be of some use,.