On Monday, June 8, members of the U.S. Board sent the following companywide email to Penguin Random House employees outlining an action plan and commitments regarding the company’s diversity and inclusion efforts.
June 8, 2020
George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade: These are only the most recent and widely known victims of the systemic racism and police brutality that continue to bring shame, outrage, and despair to us as Americans. We as individuals and as the collective leadership of this company recognize the urgent need to forge a path toward positive change. We acknowledge the trauma and experience of our Black colleagues, and we want you to know that we stand with you. As publishers, we believe in the power of our work to impact society. Black Lives Matter. Black Stories Matter and Black Voices Matter—and as Penguin Random House, we commit to using the powers of our creativity and ingenuity to lift those voices up in the world.
Like you, we have taken time over these last days to reflect and to listen, and to further identify how we can effect meaningful and lasting change in our company and in our society. On Friday, we met with the Diversity & Inclusion Council to translate the many conversations taking place among us all into a series of concrete actions and commitments. These actions build on the framework of the D&I Strategic Plan that we announced last fall and have been working to implement across the company.
First, a note on our role as a publisher in our society at this time. Over the decades, our imprints have published groundbreaking Black authors whose words are exactly those that readers and society at large are reaching for today: Ralph Ellison, James Baldwin, Maya Angelou, Malcolm X, Toni Morrison, Bryan Stevenson, Jacqueline Woodson, Ta-Nehisi Coates, and Ibram X. Kendi are just a few of those whose books you support and who are continuing to change lives every day. But our company and our industry haven’t published enough works by authors of color. We can, and must, do much more, and in particular, we must live up to our goal of publishing books for all readers.
In order to publish more diverse books and reach more diverse audiences, we need to achieve the goal of creating a more diverse and inclusive employee population and culture. Without diversity at all levels of the organization, with full access to decision-making, we will always fall short of our goals as a business and as a cultural institution. Reaching the goal of a diverse population will not be easily or quickly achieved. We believe the transparency cited below is a good next step, but it is just one of many that we will need to follow.
Today we are announcing that in addition to making a donation to the Equal Justice Initiative, which was founded by our author Bryan Stevenson, we are adding to our annual donation to We Need Diverse Books (WNDB) and expanding our partnership with this organization to become the inaugural sponsor of the Black Creatives Fund. The Black Creatives Fund will focus on encouraging and amplifying the work of Black creatives who have written adult or children’s books and are seeking publication, in order to bring more Black voices and stories to the world. The Fund’s program will have three tiers to encourage development at all stages of the publishing pipeline: education through direct support and resources to help navigate the publishing industry; mentorship through direct access to published authors who can guide Black creatives on the path to publication; and financial support through grants for each mentee in the program. We look forward to sharing more details when the Fund launches later this summer.
Last fall, we presented you with our long-term strategic plan, which was built on the basis of the Paradigm cultural assessment conducted last spring. In it, we identified four areas of opportunity. We are now announcing the following accountability measures and specific next steps related to each area:
- Leadership Investment in D&I. As a step beyond the Unconscious Bias training already undertaken by much of the company, we will make antiracism training mandatory for all employees. As the leadership team, we know systemic change starts with us, and as such, we, the U.S. Board, will participate in training right away. Programs will then be evaluated for rollout to all employees and an implementation plan will be put in place and communicated.
As it will take some time to select and implement a company-wide training program, in the meantime we will introduce our first-ever true company-wide read: How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi. (Please access the PRH Reader app for the eBook and the Volumes app for the audiobook; print copies will be made available once we are back in stock.) This important work will be assigned to each employee, and departments will be provided with material and support to facilitate local discussions in every team across the company. In addition, we are extremely fortunate and grateful that Dr. Kendi has expressed willingness to join us for a companywide town hall event, which will serve to launch our antiracism training program.
We understand that open discussion often serves the majority and will additionally seek meaningful ways to hold space for our Black employees and other employees of color.
- Diversity & Representation. We are committed to making our employee population more representative of our society. Our next step in this process will be to share with you the statistics related to our current workforce demographics. Using this and other data, we will set and communicate clear goals for increasing our diversity at all levels, from entry level to executive level.
We will increase the number of books we publish—and promote, market, and sell—by people of color. As a first step, we commit to auditing our publishing programs to determine how many books we currently publish by people of color, and to communicating those results to you. By establishing an overall baseline, we will be better able to set clear goals and track our progress.
- Career Growth and Psychological Safety & Belonging. We believe that D&I goals should be integral to the development of all employees. Based on your feedback, earlier this year, together with a D&I Working Group, the HR/Learning & Development teams launched a new Personal Career Planner Tool to help employees to have more purposeful conversations with their managers about career advancement. Moving forward, we will integrate work and behavior related to achieving our D&I goals into our growth and development conversations. We will also ensure that data from the Employee Survey that relates to whether managers are developing and supporting a culture of psychological safety and belonging in their groups is addressed in each manager’s own development discussions. By including D&I as a key component of our performance review process, we can recognize the work done by so many to help achieve progress and to hold us all accountable for making our company, our teams, and our workplace a truly inclusive place to work.
These initiatives are works in progress, and are part of an ongoing and evolving plan for action. More details will be shared in a timely manner about each. This is a renewal of our commitment to creating and delivering change in the short term, and for the long term. By recognizing that each of us has a vital role to play in this process and by working together to reach our goals and regularly examining our progress toward achieving them, we can and will drive lasting change in our company, our industry, and our world.
As always, we ask that you continue to engage actively in this process with us. If you have immediate thoughts or concerns, we welcome you to bring those to your division’s leadership on the Board, or on the Council, or to any one of us. Thank you for your commitment to change and for being on this journey with us.
Members of the U.S. Board:
Madeline McIntosh, CEO
Jeff Abraham, Publisher Services
Gina Centrello, Random House
Amanda D’Acierno, PRH Audio
Annette Danek-Akey, Supply Chain
Sanyu Dillon, Marketing Strategy & Consumer Engagement
Allison Dobson, Penguin Publishing Group
Jim Johnston, Finance
Jen Loja, Penguin Young Readers
Nihar Malaviya, Operations
Barbara Marcus, Random House Children’s Books
Maya Mavjee, Knopf Doubleday
Paige McInerney, Human Resources
Anke Steinecke, Legal
Jaci Updike, Sales
Nina von Moltke, Strategic Development
Claire von Schilling, Communications and Social Responsibility