Before starting the MSc Publishing course at Edinburgh Napier University, I wasn’t too sure about what route I wanted to go down within the industry – for example, editorial, marketing, production, or social media. However, what I did know was that I wanted to be involved with companies and roles that actively advocated for diversity, accessibility, and inclusion alongside, a commitment to educating themselves, and others, about social issues. Therefore, when I was given an opportunity to work with Jasami Publishing Ltd. as a social media and marketing intern through the course’s placement module – and after learning about the company’s commitment to community projects – I jumped at the chance!
During my first project meeting with Jasami’s former creative director, she informed me that due to the discussions about my own ambition and dedication to accessible, and inclusive, content within the publishing industry throughout my interview, she had pushed to create the company’s own Diversity Team of which I would be managing. I was so thrilled to hear that Jasami was making this step towards a more diverse, inclusive, and accessible future and I also felt honoured that they believed in me to run this incredible team, projects, and campaigns.
Throughout my time at Jasami, I conducted an extensive amount of research on how to make the workplace more diverse and accessible from an internal perspective, as well as external. With this in mind, I ran a month-long campaign during March which was dedicated to ‘Women’s Empowerment Month’ in which I aimed to recognise, educate and empower the history and future of women from all walks of life and their achievements. During this campaign, I worked with authors and interns at Jasami; created social media content; and also created a partnership with the Glasgow Women’s Library through correspondence with Syma Ahmed (BME Project Developer) who was incredibly inspiring and actually made me re-think about my ideas of diversity and inclusion within workplace settings.
At first, I thought that this campaign and the creation of the Diversity Team (which has its own section on the company’s website) was an amazing, inspiring, and fundamental step in the right direction for a better future, but, in reality, diversity and accessibility aren’t extra steps… they’re steps you have missed from the start. Through the research and education that I had thrown myself into during this experience, my discussions on how to make a workplace more diverse, accessible, and inclusive shifted to a question of performative representation outputs within the publishing industry, as a whole.
Quite simply, the publishing industry – from the Big Five publishing houses, to booksellers, to small, independent publishers – are set up to cater for a white, middle-class, and predominantly male, audience. However, everyone has been forced to face their ignorance and become more educated on issues of inequality and injustice through access to social media platforms like Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok which have become catalysts for social activism. Thus, with educational resources, activist movements, and evidence of oppression, discrimination, and violence in the palm of your hand, there is no excuse for companies to not be a part of institutional change as a means of combatting inequality.
Yet, a lot of companies – especially, the publishing industry as a creative output of accessible information – convey performative, and ritual, social practices that are enacted over time as a declaration of their commitment to diversity, inclusion, equality, and accessibility that relates to current contexts to avoid potential scrutiny from consumers. This performance is usually initiated through a company statement, or campaign, that declares a commitment to the cause from an external output, when nothing has (or will) change within the internal structures of the company to truly reflect this commitment.
This is an act of “we commit to the extent in which we are required to do so” which will do nothing more than maintain power and privilege structures that must be dismantled to achieve a diverse, equal, and inclusive workplace dynamic. Thus, although the publishing industry has the ability to shape culture and keep up with current trends, it doesn’t reflect our cultural diversity and needs for accessible, inclusive, and safe workplaces, books, and social media content. There is a long way to go before we can achieve a truly progressive and diverse industry and the first step is to acknowledge that there is more to be learned (and unlearned) about how to create, and maintain, resources, opportunities, and commitments for change!