January 19, 2016
Penguin Random House to eliminate degree requirement for future applicants
by Simon Reichley
According to a report by Sally Weale at The Guardian, Penguin Random House is eliminating its degree requirement for all future job applicants. The decision is part of an effort to promote educational and demographic diversity throughout its vast publishing empire.
As Neil Morrison, director of human resources at Penguin Random House tells Weale:
“We want to attract the best people to help grow and shape the future of our company, regardless of their background – and that means that we need to think and act differently. Simply, if you’re talented and you have potential, we want to hear from you. This is the starting point for our concerted action to make publishing far, far more inclusive than it has been to date. Now, we need to be more visible to talented people across the UK.
We believe this is critical to our future: to publish the best books that appeal to readers everywhere, we need to have people from different backgrounds with different perspectives and a workforce that truly reflects today’s society.”
This is certainly an admirable effort, particularly in light of recent revelations showcasing the lack of diversity in the publishing industry. The numbers suggested by the Equality in Publishing Report highlight a “shocking lack of diversity,” especially at the senior managerial and editorial level. The report found that:
…while 28.8% of the working population of London are Black or Minority Ethnic (BME), only 7.7% of those working in publishing are from a non-white background.
Even worse, only 4% of editorial staff were found to be from a BME background. Editors are responsible for commissioning and editing books that end up on bookshelves. Only 3% of senior managers were found to be of non-white origin.
These are pretty startling numbers. Though, it remains to be seen what kind of impact PRH’s new strategy will have, it’s important to note that Morrison is careful to say that doing away with the degree-requirement is only “the starting point” for what will hopefully be a much more serious recruiting and hiring overhaul.
Simon Reichley is assistant to the publishers and office manager at Melville House.