I recently attended Equip’s first annual conference, Developing the Publishing Workforce, at City University in London. Equip (Equality in Publishing) is an organisation dedicated to improving access to, and equality within, the publishing industry.

Guided by new research into attitudes towards diversity in the publishing workplace, Equip has recently gone under something of a re-brand, with a shift of focus away from diversity and towards the end goal of equality.

Equip Project Manager, Bobby Nayyar, explained that, even with the best of intentions, talking about “diversity” in the workplace can often highlight difference and create distance between the people it attempts to bring together. This is interesting as I have often found the diversity “issue” can easily become confusing, divisive, and, in the wrong hands, dangerous. At its best, increased diversity is reflected in a wider variety of cultural perspectives and exchange of ideas; at its worst, it can be reduced to a condescending numbers game, with little or no true reflection of the individuals at hand.

By contrast, talk about equality seems to take a more direct tone and offers clear benefits to all: upholding the rights of everyone in your organisation by treating them with mutual respect, regardless of their sexual orientation, race or class background (to name a few of the key diversity factors). This creates a more level playing field (beyond the narrow confines of Eton) for people to be happy and reach their potential at work, as well as opening more doors for anyone who has a sincere and passionate desire to get into publishing.

Major publishers, and employers in general, need to become more aware of the value of equality because quite simply, it is good for business; in the quality of output and exchange of ideas it engenders, but much more importantly, there is an inherent ethical good in making an industry, such as publishing, evolve beyond Victorian values and tacit diversity policies, to become more open, accessible and ultimately, more interesting and relevant to the people who buy books.

Silhouette Press, and our magazine, Here Comes Everyone, is passionate about being open to everyone, including people from minority and deprived communities, to develop creative writing opportunities and to build other employable skills. We intend to strengthen this commitment and sign-up to the Equip charter and make two pledges towards promoting equality and improved access to the publishing industry in 2013/14 but we all still have a long way to go.