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A Report from IBPA’s DEI Task Force: Enabling Positive, Actionable, Systemic Change

Thursday, September 24, 2020   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Karen Pavlicin
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At its strategic planning session in August 2019, the IBPA Board of Directors set as one of its 2020-2022 goals to “enhance diversity and promote equitable participation within the association and the profession of independent publishing.” More information here.

As part of this work, the board formed a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Task Force, which began meeting in May 2020.

Through weekly meetings, informed by outside discussions with DEI professionals and IBPA members, IBPA’s DEI Task Force has drafted a DEI plan consisting of a commitment statement along with priorities, goals, and strategies covering the next two fiscal years. The effort responds to IBPA’s responsibility to advocate for essential changes in the book industry, beginning with the association itself.


State of the Industry

IBPA recognizes that the words, stories, and images presented in books have the power to shape culture and history in big and small ways. At the same time, it acknowledges that the legacy of the book publishing industry is undeniably one of privilege, bias, and exclusion, which significantly affects the books that are published.

The Diversity Baseline Survey conducted by Lee & Low Books in 2015 and featured in the May/June 2020 issue of the IBPA Independent magazine documents the lack of diversity among personnel who work in and lead the book publishing industry. A repeat of the survey in 2019 showed little progress. Respondents included a broad group of people who work for the “Big Five” (Penguin/Random House, Hachette Book Group, Harper Collins, Simon and Schuster, and Macmillan), as well as university presses, review journals, and literary agents, thus capturing many of the book industry’s gatekeepers who decide which books get published.

IBPA’s 3,600+ members represent publishers who operate a wide variety of business models and publish books with a broad range of goals and measures of success. Many IBPA publishers are small, which means the owners are also the gatekeepers who make decisions about which books are published and how they are marketed.

IBPA’s DEI Task Force considered the Lee & Low survey as well as data from the 2020 IBPA Member Demographics and Needs Survey, which contained new questions about the diversity of IBPA members and their staff, when drafting the DEI plan referenced above. Additional research will explore barriers to success faced by publishers from underrepresented groups, and how associations like IBPA can help independent publishers overcome these barriers so they can publish and market books representative of all perspectives and life experiences.


IBPA’s DEI Commitment

To realize its vision of a world where every independent publisher has the access, knowledge, and tools needed to professionally engage in all aspects of an inclusive publishing industry, IBPA commits to fostering diversity, equity, and inclusion within its membership, leadership, policies, practices, and publications.


IBPA’s DEI Priorities

With the overall goal of enabling positive, actionable, systemic change, the DEI Task Force’s scope of work addresses four priorities:

  • To engage and support underrepresented groups in IBPA's community, education, advocacy, and tools for success.

  • To ensure IBPA's policies and practices welcome, include, value, and support members of underrepresented groups.

  • To develop resources to increase the cultural competency of IBPA’s staff, key volunteers, and members.

  • To facilitate conversation within IBPA’s membership that leads toward greater understanding and more diverse, equitable, and inclusive outcomes.

IBPA’s DEI Goals

In addition to the commitment statement and list of priorities above, IBPA’s DEI plan includes several strategic goals aimed at engaging and supporting underrepresented groups within the association itself. Paraphrased, these include:

  • Recruit and retain a more diverse IBPA membership.

  • Select a diverse group of volunteer leaders to serve as educational speakers at IBPA Publishing University and on IBPA committees and the board of directors.

  • Ensure IBPA’s key governance documents and statements, such as its bylaws, mission statement, core values, and anti-harassment policy, comply with a modern understanding of DEI within a nonprofit association.

  • Provide training for staff and key volunteers in best practices related to diversity, equity, and inclusion.

  • Create alliances with other publishing organizations and author communities to extend DEI efforts across the industry.

How to Get Involved

IBPA’s mission is to lead and serve the independent publishing community through advocacy, education, and tools for success. The efforts of the DEI Task Force focus on IBPA’s core value of inclusivity, where everyone can tell their story and find themselves in the content they read.

The IBPA Board of Directors and its DEI Task Force encourage IBPA members to participate in the implementation of these initiatives by learning more, getting involved, sharing your experiences, and reaching out to colleagues. Consider nominating yourself or a colleague for a volunteer leadership position. Talk with IBPA’s DEI Task Force members about the challenges you’ve encountered discovering diverse authors and staff, running a publishing company as a person from an underrepresented group, or publishing and promoting diverse books. Share your best practices and successes.

Additional updates on IBPA’s DEI Task Force’s plan will be published as the work moves forward. IBPA members are invited to share your thoughts throughout this iterative process by emailing the DEI Task Force members directly using dei_taskforce@ibpa-online.org. We’re listening, and we look forward to hearing from you.


DEI Defined

DIVERSITY is the presence of differences that may include race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, ethnicity, nationality, socioeconomic status, language, (dis)ability, age, religious commitment, or political perspective. [These are] populations that have been—and remain—underrepresented among practitioners in the field and marginalized in the broader society.

EQUITY is promoting justice, impartiality, and fairness within the procedures, processes, and distribution of resources by institutions or systems. Tackling equity issues requires an understanding of the root causes of outcome disparities within our society.

INCLUSION is an outcome to ensure those that are diverse actually feel and are welcomed. Inclusion outcomes are met when [a person or institution], and its program are truly inviting to all. Diverse individuals are able to participate fully in the decision-making processes and development opportunities within an organization or group.

IBPA takes its definitions of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion from the eXtension Foundation Impact Collaborative.


Share your publishing news with the IBPA community! Send news about events or accomplishments to christopher@ibpa-online.org. For more details about the types of stories we're seeking, click here.

Keep in mind that we reserve Spotlights for major news (such as, you published a book about space exploration and now it's being read in a live video feed by astronauts from the International Space Station), unique news (such as, you published a book about cycling and now the author is riding a bike across the U.S. for their book tour), or human interest stories (such as, you visit shelters every weekend to read books to the dogs and cats there).

Though launching a new book isn’t the focus of our Spotlights articles, IBPA is happy to share that exciting news on social media. Please contact christopher@ibpa-online.org with the launch date, your book cover, your book title, your book's genre, a link to where readers can learn more about your book, and your Twitter handle.

For good news in general about your publishing company (your book received a wonderful editorial review, you have an upcoming speaking engagement, etc.), use the hashtag #IBPAmemberGoodNews on Twitter and IBPA will amplify your good news!

Whether you have news or not, all of us at IBPA are cheering you on!


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