Inclusion & Diversity: An interview with Stephen Lotinga, CEO, Publishers Association (UK)

Stephen-Lotinga-small-headcrop Stephen Lotinga

Arguably a forerunner in making progress on the topic of inclusion and diversity, the UK Publishers Association began their journey with a landmark report on the diversity of the UK publishing industry in 2017. They have just released their findings from a follow up report, and I caught up with their CEO Stephen Lotinga during the London Book Fair to find out more.

Inclusion and Diversity is a hot topic right now. What does it mean for you personally and how do these types of reports fit into the picture?    

Personally, I think this is such an important topic. Over the past few years, there has been increased recognition from senior parts of the industry about the need to tackle some of the issues around I&D. I believe that if you truly care about something you must first and foremost understand where you are and where you want to be. These reports provide the basis of the UK Publishers Association’s 10-point Inclusivity Action Plan, that aims to take incremental steps as an industry to get where we want to go on this important issue.

How did you start the journey?   

We realized early on that we needed reliable data about the dynamics of the UK publishing workforce. This was to get a better understanding of what we were doing as an industry and to help us demonstrate progress. Up until this point, data was either collected in house or from a very small sample. It must be said, our aspiration was not to have perfectly comparable data, because we wanted an ever-increasing number of organisations to join in as the survey expanded. In our first year, we got a good response covering over 2,500 employees from 23 companies. This year, we had 42 organisations take part in the survey with a combined workforce of over 10,500 people roughly covering one third of the overall workforce in the UK. I’m confident that makes it the most comprehensive survey of its kind.

What were some of the key insights from the report?

Firstly, the data indicated that 54% of the leadership in publishing companies are in fact female (56% in senior leadership roles and 48% at executive level). When we talk about seniority, we tend to focus on the role of CEO, mostly within the context of larger publishing houses. In fact, the report suggests there are a lot more women in senior posts than we previously realized which is a good thing for our industry.

But not everything in the report is a good news story, we have to be realistic on issues such as the ethnic mix and regional diversity of our workforce. The report showed a decline in BAME representation which was a surprise to me as I really thought it was going to be better.  We have to remember that much of the insights generated from the report are really starting points to ask difficult questions and to have uncomfortable conversations.

What advice do you have for other Publishing Associations wanting to report on I&D in their region?

Start small. Don’t assume that you will be able to understand the whole industry. You need to make sure you have a representative sample of publishers on board, who can agree on how to make this as painless as possible from the start. Also, you don’t need to re-invent the wheel. Much of the data on diversity is already being collected, either in house or in small samples. If you have enough lead time you can insert additional diversity questions into established surveys.

The other advice I would give is to get your members on board. Diversity is something all companies are concerned with and you need to make them part of the process. Having a set of achievable targets helped to really drive behaviour and right from the start, we encouraged all publishers to sign up to our 10-point action plan. I think this gave them the confidence early on that we were not naming and shaming, but working together to make sense of the data and achieve our targets.  

Was it costly?

In terms of costs, you can spend a small amount or large amount, it all depends on what you want to achieve. In the bigger picture, for us it was very affordable because it was a topic that was so important for our members.

What is costly is the time and resources needed to engage with publishers. For us, this led to really positive conversations with our members and uncovered a whole range of people who are really keen to run with the diversity agenda.  

What actions have you seen arising from the report?

Projects that involve training and mentoring are critical in addressing some of the issues identified by the reports. For example, young people wanting to enter the industry often need a university education. However, we believe there should be alternative ways to attract talent and train on the job. We are looking to launch a fully approved apprenticeship program later this year.

What are your aspirations for the future of Inclusion and diversity?

I am looking forward to seeing similar data from not just publishing companies but from the wider supply chains, consultants and organizations that make up the creative industry. While this is not a priority right now, having this overview can really help galvanize key projects.

The other area I would like to see more progress on is LGBTQI+. I am surprised there is such limited data on this in the workforce in general. We need to have these conversations between publishers and really ask why do we have these gaps and what are we going to do about it.  

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Monday, 18 November 2019

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