Australian Publishers Association: A First Industry Diversity Study

In News by Porter Anderson

Surveying publishers, large to small, as well as freelancers and self-employed pros, the Australian study finds a need for ‘diverse representation.’

Image: Australian Publishers Association

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

IPED: ‘We Want To Play Our Part’
While many major world publishing markets are focusing on questions of diversity, equity, and inclusion—in terms of their published content and the makeup of their teams and staff—the pace and progress of these inquiries differ considerably from region to region.

Among English-language markets, arguably the most advanced and committed to self-appraisal and action in this regard is the United Kingdom, where the Publishers Association has long been engaged in coordinated 10-step planning and reportage among publishers, each participating house working to assess its diversity profile and embark on actionable goals for improvement.

In the United States, the Association of American Publishers has recently named its first vice-president for diversity, equity, and inclusion. Jonathan M. Walker of George Washington University is to report directly to president and CEO Maria A. Pallante.

And at the end of August, the Australian Publishers Association released its first major effort in taking stock of how its book business looks beside its population.

Association president James Kellow writes with admirable frankness, “We are a publishing industry that offers places for many women and also for many people identifying as LGBTQ+, but a home for few Indigenous Australians, Australians from non-Anglo-Celtic backgrounds, or working-class Australians.”

In a show of solidarity, Australia’s Institute of Professional Editors (IPED) has issued a staunch statement of support for the organization’s publisher-colleagues.

The organization’s chair Ruth Davies writes, “Editors are integral to the publishing industry, and we’ve been long aware that our demographics reflect the profile outlined in this landmark report.

“We want to play our part in improving representation in the editing profession to create a space that’s more diverse, equitable, and inclusive and to encourage those stories to be shared. Australia’s publishing industry needs diverse representation more than ever.”

Responses to this inaugural survey of the industry came from 989 people “working across the breadth of the publishing industry in Australia: children’s, independent, scholarly and journals, schools and education, tertiary and professional, and trade.”

The input represents large, medium, and small publishing houses as well as freelancers and self-employed professionals.

With a total publishing workforce between 3,700 and 6,300, the response is rated at between 15.6 and 26.75 percent with a 99-percent confidence level and a margin of error of 4 percent.

Key Results From the Australian Study

Image: Australian Publishers Association

Here are some top-line data points from this new report from Australia, written by Susannah Bowen and Beth Driscoll of the University of Melbourne, which has co-sponsored the project with the publishers’ association.

  • 84 percent of the survey respondents were women and 2 percent reported themselves as non-binary or “other”
  • Fewer than 1 percent of Australian publishing industry professionals identify as being members of First Nations
  • 10.5 percent identify with a European culture other than British, and 8.5 percent cite an Asian cultural identity
  • 21 percent of respondents identify as LGBTQ+ compared to estimates of 11 percent in the Australian population
  • 35.4 percent of respondents said they were experiencing mental health conditions at the time of responding to the survey, compared with 25 percent of respondents to a similar survey of the United Kingdom’s publishing industry in 2021
  • 24.7 percent of publishing professionals report having a long-term health condition or disability including a physical or mental health condition.
  • 5.2 percent of respondents report having a disability
  • 24.8 percent of respondents were located in places other than Sydney or Melbourne.
  • 33.6 percent of respondents reported coming from backgrounds that could be described as lower-middle or working class.
  • 48 percent of respondents attended private schools, compared to around 30 percent in the Australian population.
  • More than 85 percent of respondents hold a degree, and more than half hold at least one postgraduate degree. This compares to 24 percent of the Australian population holding an undergraduate degree

In discussions of the results provided as part of the new study, the report authors Driscoll and Bowen write that when asked “What improvements, if any, can be made to improve the level of diversity in your organization or networks and create a more inclusive culture?” the most common theme from 362 participants in this question cited diverse recruitment as fundamental to changing the profile of the industry.

Image: Australian Publishers Association

Specific suggestions include:

  • Advertise jobs more widely and through different channels to the usual ones
  • Address structural racism in recruitment processes
  • Use quotas and other deliberate efforts to employ people dissimilar to those doing the hiring

The full survey is available at the publishers’ association’s site.


A version of this story ran in our Frankfurter Buchmesse Show Magazine, available to our world readership in a free digital download online. The magazine originally appeared in print on the Messe Frankfurt for trade visitors as Frankfurt Book Fair opened.

The magazine features extensive coverage of issues and trends that led discussions and debates at the trade show this year, along with interviews, profiles, and commentary in this strongly attended Frankfurt year. Click here for your download (PDF).

More on Frankfurter Buchmesse is here, more on the international rights trade is here, more on this year’s Guest of Honor Spain is here, more on guest of honor programs and markets is here, more on the Australian market is here, more on international book fairs is here, and more on industry statistics is here.

More from us on the still ongoing coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on international book publishing is here.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

Facebook Twitter

Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson was for more than a decade a senior producer and anchor with CNN.com, CNN International, and CNN USA. As an arts critic (Fellow, National Critics Institute), he was with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.