Danuta Kean: Too white, too middle class and out of touch

From a speech, made by the contributing editor of 'The Bookseller', at the London Book Fair

Publishing is too white, too middle class and in danger of losing touch with new markets for books. If publishers fail to appeal to the Black and Asian market, they will not get a share of the £32bn in disposable income available to these communities. That is serious money for a £1.55bn market that has seen a relatively slow growth in recent years and is desirous to expand into new markets.

Publishers claim job or work experience applications from minority ethnic graduates are few and far between.

Black and Asian people, claim some, simply do not want to work in the sector. But that response hides a huge degree of complacency. Publishers rely heavily on unpaid work experience and Oxbridge graduates for their pool of labour. That automatically discriminates in favour of those with the financial security to be able to work for free in a London based industry. In other words, it discriminates in favour of middle class and, consequently, predominantly white people.

By relying on word of mouth, publishers limit their recruitment to a self-perpetuating class of people, dominated by the Oxbridge-educated, white upper middle classes. That is shocking and makes a joke of equal opportunities policies.

[Anyone who doubts the need for change] should imagine the world of publishing 30 years ago transposed to today: Who in their right mind would think a company owned, run and staffed by white, middle-aged, public school boys was a dynamic enterprise, setting the agenda for the 21st century?

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