U.S. Publishing Industry is Predominantly White, Female, Says Study

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Interesting data from Lee & Row Books, a children’s publishing company, who surveyed 34 American Publishers—Penguin and Hachette among them—and eight review journals, and found that 79 percent of their staff were white, and 78 percent were female. A look at the broader American society finds that 63 percent of citizens are non-Hispanic whites, and just over 50 percent are female, meaning that this is an over-representation in both regards (using data from the 2010 census).

According to The Guardian, African Americans were the most significantly under-represented group, at just 3.5 percent of all staff (compared to 13.2 percent for the entire population). Asians/Native Hawaiians/Pacific Islanders made up 7.2 percent, which is actually a slight over-representation compared to the population, while Hispanics made up 5.5 percent, about three times less than the approximately 17 percent in the wider U.S. demographic.

The percentages for white staff rose even higher when the survey isolated executive, editorial, and book reviewer positions, and the percentage of females rose at every level except executive, where it fell to 59 percent.

“Does the lack of diverse books closely correlate to the lack of diverse staff?” wrote Jason Low, the publisher who helped run the survey. “The percentages, while not exact, are proportional to how the majority of books look nowadays—predominately white. Cultural fit would seem to be relevant here…what is at work is the tendency—conscious or unconscious—for executives, editors, marketers, sales people, and reviewers to work with, develop, and recommend books by and about people who are like them.”

The study comes at an important time for the publishing industry, when books featuring minority characters seem to be severely under-represented in fiction. Read the in-depth data here.