Andrew W. Mellon Supports Fellowship Program Diversifying the Intellectual Leadership of Scholarly Publishing

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Andrew W. Mellon Supports Fellowship Program Diversifying the Intellectual Leadership of Scholarly Publishing

The American academic and cultural heritage communities are not keeping up with societal needs for diversity, equity, and inclusion. My fellow chefs Alice Meadows, Charlie Rapple, and Robert Harington have written about gender inequities in scholarly publishing. In other sectors that colleagues and I have studied in depth, including art museums nationally, cultural organizations broadly and dance companies specifically in New York City, and academic libraries, inequities on the basis of race and ethnicity are if anything greater than those around gender. Gender imbalances remain, stark in some cases, but can at least sometimes be assessed to be moving in the right direction. Race and ethnicity indicate profound differences that we continue to struggle to resolve.

In terms of representative diversity — basic employee demographics — the numbers are especially problematic when one focuses on the “intellectual” leaders in our organizations. Looking in art museums, for example, those who shape the strategic direction, collections policy, and community engagement — the directors, curators, educators, and conservators — are fully 84% white non-Hispanic. While other departments, such as security and facilities, bring greater representative diversity, the result is substantial inequity inside of organizations and an ongoing inability to engage with the cultural and intellectual needs of the society that is changing around us.

For scholarly publishers, individuals involved in setting business and editorial strategy are two broad areas where we should question whether “intellectual” leadership is diverse or diversifying. Larger publishers have an array of individuals with responsibility for strategy, product development, mergers & acquisitions, and so forth. And while smaller publishers may have less of this business infrastructure, all publishers have individuals responsible for editorial work, in particular the selection of what it is that will be published. In all roles, but perhaps especially these types of roles in scholarly publishing, diversity matters.

For this reason, I was especially interested to learn about the University Press Diversity Fellowship Program, an initiative designed to diversify the acquisitions departments at university presses. Last week, I had a chance to speak with Larin McLaughlin, the editor in chief of the University of Washington Press who has spearheaded the fellowship program, to learn more about it. . .

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