It is an honor to bring stories and ideas into the world. Penguin Random House is committed to serving our Contributors (i.e., authors, illustrators, and other creators) and to bringing their culture-shaping perspectives and stories to readers. We have a responsibility to achieve greater inclusion not only within our workforce population but also throughout the community of creative and original voices we publish. And we know that our mission to publish books for everyone can be accomplished only if our Contributors’ demographics better represent the society we live in.
To this end, in June 2020 we reaffirmed our commitment to foster greater diversity, equity, and inclusion within our company and throughout the publishing industry, and our commitment to increase the number of books we publish, promote, market, and sell by Contributors of color.
As a step toward achieving this goal, we conducted an audit of our U.S. publishing programs with a focus on the race and ethnicity of our Contributors. The audit findings will serve as a baseline to determine next steps and to measure progress. To ground this initial audit in the context of our longer-term strategic plan, we’re now referring to the 2019−2021 audit as Phase One.
Project Evolution & Methodology
At the outset of the audit, we made a commitment to give our Contributors the ability to self-identify. We have held to this approach and will continue to do so going forward.
To conduct the audit, parameters were established to help determine which Contributors would be in scope. Included were living Contributors attached to titles as follows:
- Titles published between 01/01/2019 and 12/31/2021.
- Titles previously published but with new editions or formats.
- Titles published in the U.S. with Contributors of any nationality.
- Titles published by Penguin Random House U.S.; DK and distribution-client titles were out of scope.
- Contributor roles as defined in the Rights Management System (RMS), including authors, illustrators, and translators.
Our outreach consisted of an email campaign to the Contributors and personalized follow-ups from editors. We achieved a 53% response rate. When compared with the rates for the 2019 U.S. Census (52%) and Lee & Low’s Diversity Survey (36%), our response rate provided a sufficient sample for meaningful analysis. In total, 3,415 Contributors completed the survey.
Here are the demographic findings from Phase One of the publishing programs audit:
We want to reiterate that we recognize that self-identification (and, by extension, our data) is nuanced and varied, can change over time, and depends on context.
This next chart shows the breakout of the Contributors by race and ethnicity, along with industry and U.S. population benchmarks.
As you can see, as with our employee benchmarks, our Contributor base for the audited time frame is not reflective of the U.S. population; the Hispanic or Latinx, Black or African American, and Indigenous representation are all low in comparison to the U.S. overall.
To note, there are key changes in percentages shown in Chart 2 compared to Chart 1, due to data analysis and reporting. These differences allow us to align with the U.S. Census and with the categories used in the 2021 PRH workforce report for benchmarking purposes. “Prefer not to say” responses are excluded, which results in an increase in the percentages across the board.
Contributor self-identifications of gender, LGBTQ identity, and disability status were included in the audit to account for the intersectional identities of our Contributors and for further assessment of the diversity of our publishing program.
Phase One Conclusions & Learnings
Based on the audit findings, our Contributor demographics do not reflect U.S. reader demographics when it comes to race and ethnicity. Black, Hispanic, and Indigenous representation are low, while white representation is overindexed. Significant growth in the underrepresented Contributor populations is required to accurately reflect U.S. demographics.
As noted, a Contributor’s identity can change over time and depends on context. Contributor self-identification can be nuanced and varied, and we understand that how an individual identifies can change. The survey we conducted asked our Contributors to inform us of how they identify, and, moving forward, we will ensure that they can update that information at any point in time.
To formulate a baseline, we worked within the constraints of the U.S. Census, but we found that these definitions are inadequate for our commitment to self-identification. As an example, asking Contributors who live in other countries and cultures to self-identify using these U.S. Census definitions proved difficult. As a next step, the project group will work to provide clearer definitions for racial/ethnic categories so that respondents can map themselves to the corresponding U.S. Census category, providing a more accurate benchmark.
The data also show a correlation between workforce demographics and Contributor demographics. Achieving our workforce diversification goals, in addition to making changes in our internal culture, will support our Contributor diversification goals.
The project group is currently working on documenting these and other lessons learned for the benefit of future data collection and publishing work.
Where We Go from Here
While we understand that these findings are far from where we want—and need—to be, we hope that the audit provides a clear, measurable starting point that we can use to set goals and standards and hold ourselves accountable as we progress forward. We value your input and ideas about how we can collectively make our publishing programs more inclusive and representative in alignment with our mission and values.
The goal of this audit was to provide visibility into our publishing programs through data. Now that we are equipped with this information, we have begun taking steps toward uncovering and addressing the systemic barriers that yielded the audit results, so we can ensure that the demographics of our Contributors better reflect the racial and ethnic makeup of our society going forward.
One major outcome of this project will be ongoing integration of demographic data collection into our normal business practices, including the questionnaire used when onboarding Contributors at the time of acquisition.
While we are making meaningful progress toward increasing the diversity of our Contributors, we are not in the place we would like to be. We also acknowledge that the reality of standard acquisition and publishing timelines means the changes we are making to our processes now don’t always translate directly to our lists as quickly as we would like them to. That said, we can—and must—greatly accelerate our efforts.
Since the acquisitions take place at the divisional level, the heart of this work lies with our publishers. Each division has committed to deeply exploring their specific systemic barriers and then identifying and implementing solutions tailored to their audit results and set of findings. To begin this process, every publishing division and corporate department discussed their teams’ audit results and the programs and initiatives in motion within each division designed to increase the number of BIPOC Contributors. As a next step, they are starting and revisiting the discussion and exploration of systemic barriers to entry.
While specifics have varied across divisions, common themes have emerged regarding how our Publishing, Sales, Marketing, and Publicity colleagues are attempting to increase BIPOC representation at every stage of the publishing life cycle. We’ve included a high-level summary of these strategies below to provide transparency around the areas and types of programs we will grapple with, reimagine, and build on as we refine and accelerate these efforts moving forward.
- Expanding publishing resources and education programs in order to demystify the process.
- Creating and expanding open submission opportunities and establishing company-wide best practices for these processes.
- Expanding and refining the processes for sourcing diverse talent within each piece of the storytelling process, including art, design, and production.
- Formalizing, expanding, and further integrating our use of authenticity readers.
Marketing & Publicity
- Celebrating diverse narratives and stories year-round through always-on brand campaigns and dedicated platforms.
- Assessing our marketing spends to ensure that the allocation of marketing funds and resources is equitable in light of the diverse makeup of our lists.
- Expanding our networks, media, brand, and influencer partnerships to connect with a more diverse audience of readers.
- Diversifying our content and programming, including social media, author events, and promotional materials.
- Fostering new direct business and deeper relationships with BIPOC-owned bookstores across the country.
- Prioritizing the efforts of mission-aligned retailers and helping them to meet their commitment to increase their offerings from BIPOC authors.
- Partnering with our Education Channel distribution partners, booksellers, and educators to provide more inclusive curricular offerings.
- Working with our library partners to help them build more diverse, equitable, and inclusive collections and to increase access to books and resources.
This work is just beginning. While some initiatives in these areas are in progress, we know we need to accelerate this work. We will reimagine and expand the efforts we’ve outlined to amplify impact and develop additional vehicles to help achieve our goal.
Over the coming months, divisions and teams will host discussions to continue to identify the systemic barriers that exist—and form tangible programs and strategies to combat them—in their respective departments. Simultaneously, as noted in our recent workforce demographics update, we are working to make our employee population more reflective of our society and the community of readers we serve. Both efforts are integrally important and dependent on each other.
We are committed to sharing our progress with you and will provide transparency by communicating where we are on the road toward our representation and diversification goals on a yearly basis. Watch for ongoing updates on our actions.
If you have any questions related to this audit or our next steps, please reach out to your editor.