Our approach to inclusion, diversity & representation
Illustration © Antonio Rodriguez / Adobe Stock
For the organisation…
Our aim is that every author should know they are represented by us, that the Society of Authors is there to support you no matter what type of author you are, regardless of age, background and career stage.
Our aim is that individuals of every background, age, location, career stage and professional focus should have equal access to the opportunities, knowledge, support and community they need, while working across industries and in creative spaces where they are genuinely valued and rewarded for what they do.
Our aim is to nurture a reflective, professional environment where everyone feels ownership of, and responsibility for, diversity, inclusion and representation at the Society of Authors, and empowered to challenge practices that could work better for the author community.
How we will do this
To achieve this strategy, we will:
- Listen to members and staff with lived experiences of the inequalities and challenges we want to address, to find out how our approach can be more effective.
- Evolve our own practices to advocate for authors from underrepresented backgrounds more effectively, and to make sure their voices are heard among our membership.
- Lobby and campaign for changes to industry practice and policy.
- Feed into (and learn from) industry and community discussions and initiatives about inclusion, diversity and representation.
- Regularly survey our membership and other authors to better understand their needs, challenges and how we can better extend the reach of the support we provide.
- Strengthen our partnerships across publishing, broadcasting and other creative industries to lobby for more sustainable efforts to transform the environment in which SoA members work, because the most impactful and long-lasting change does not happen in isolation.
- Develop a forum for the staff Inclusivity Network to engage with the Management Committee, group committees, the wider membership and industry.
- Develop our resources to support authors who are facing online harassment and bullying.
- Develop our processes to review and measure the effectiveness of our work on inclusivity, and to talk publicly about the impact it is having.
- Ensure that the work demanded of the staff team on inclusion is sustainable – that we allocate the time and space to prioritise it.
- Monitor our membership, judges and staff for our diversity and representation. We will measure and review our results to help us press for change and ensure that all sectors of society are represented.
We will publish an updated timeline for the implementation of these and more specific commitments by June 2022 and we will regularly update this page.
Illustration © Antonio Rodriguez / Adobe Stock
The commitments above are designed to enhance and consolidate the existing work of the SoA staff team and our committees. Below are some of the areas in which we are working, and our current projects.
Each year, we gift a number of free SoA memberships to participants on mentoring schemes run by regional development agencies and other partners, many of whom are authors from underrepresented backgrounds, to ensure that they are starting their careers with reliable advice and resources.
We have supported the development of a growing number of networks, currently these include carers and authors with disabilities and chronic illnesses.
We strongly encourage members from underrepresented backgrounds to take part in the democratic processes that underpin the SoA structure – from our board of directors (Management Committee) through to our community committees.
We are working to ensure that the makeup of our Management Committee and Council are representative of the wider author community. In autumn 2022 we will be asking members to help us to tackle issues around barriers of access, representation and diversity by completing an anonymous diversity survey, which will help to us to gain a better understanding of the members we represent.
While the nature of our professional advice is universal – it is relevant to authors regardless of background – we need to ensure that it reaches as wide an audience as possible.
Our advisors regularly run sessions for authors engaged with regional development agencies and other partners, and actively seek out wider opportunities to share SoA knowledge.
Events & outreach
We work to ensure that every series of events we run, and every panel of speakers, is inclusive – featuring authors and other professionals from a wide range of backgrounds, stages of career and fields of work.
Inclusion, diversity and representation are at the forefront of our event programming and improvements are made with each season announcement.
At the time of writing, all our events are online. As we return to organising in-person events from our London headquarters, we will try run as many of these as hybrid events where possible – livestreamed and recorded – to ensure that authors can participate regardless of location and other needs.
Most of our online events are run with automated closed captioning and we are actively exploring other ways to improve the accessibility of all our events. We are also looking into having some of our events BSL interpreted.
Prizes, awards and grants
We work to ensure that each panel of judges and assessors for our prizes and awards is inclusive, featuring authors from a wide range of backgrounds.
We promote our prizes, awards and grants more widely than ever, making a particular effort to invite entries and applications from underrepresented groups of authors.
We are working with partners to develop prizes for underrepresented groups.
Our emphasis is on transparency in our processes and ensuring that we celebrate authors across a wide spectrum, encouraging the industry to invest in new and underrepresented projects and voices.
What we say matters. We are developing a better approach to communicating the work we already do on inclusion, diversity and representation, while acknowledging where we know we could do more.
We work to ensure that the voices we reflect and amplify represent the wide author community. This includes our line-up of contributors to The Author, the spokespeople we quote in our campaigns, the images we use, and the authors on social media whose comments we share.
The SoA workplace
For over a decade we've advertised and recruited via Creative Access in order to be visible to candidates from underrepresented backgrounds. To help remove barriers to access, we do not ask for degree qualifications but for relevant skills and experience. We state salary ranges on all job adverts and we are a London Living Wage employer. We embrace flexible working and offer part-time contracts in order to attract a wide pool of candidates. We believe strongly in the power of creating diverse teams.
In 2020 staff founded our Inclusivity Network to lead discussions and propose initiatives to help the SoA go further on its journey to becoming a measurably inclusive organisation. The Network runs six-monthly meetings with our committees to discuss and share the practical actions we are taking.
Since then, all staff and board members now take part in inclusion, diversity and representation training, which, in 2021included training in unconscious bias, Samaritans training and events with the Human Library Organisation.
In 2022 we have strengthened our recruitment procedures providing additional training to hiring managers and introducing inclusive recruitment measures such as blind recruitment. We have signed up to the Inc Arts Unlock programme, which gives arts organisations practical steps to take anti-racist action.
This year we will provide anti-racism training to our Management Committee and staff. Inc Arts will be working with us on a consultancy basis to help us target our resources effectively. As such, an Inclusivity working group is being formed with the staff Inclusivity Network and the Management Committee in order to work together with the consultant on action plans and further initiatives.
We promote Inc Arts Minds – a service that provides free group therapy for the ethnically diverse arts workforce.
At team and individual level, SoA staff are responsible for setting goals to improve inclusion, diversity and representation within the organisation.
We are working on measurable objectives, which will be reviewed annually to help further our work.
Why this work is important
The creative industries in which our members work do not accurately reflect the UK’s population.
We know from recent research that deeply engrained structural inequalities in publishing, broadcasting and elsewhere, mean that the opportunities on offer are often weighted for or against people based on their background. Below are a few of those reports:
In practice, this means that stories are not told, voices go unheard, careers are not launched and sustained (the careers of authors, of course, but also the careers of editors, agents, producers, board members, chief executives, and more), and readers, viewers, listeners, gamers and audiences are not connected with.
At best, the environments that make up the UK’s creative industries can be prohibitive and the barriers impenetrable. At worst, these environments are hostile.
While many initiatives have been launched that aim to address this, they have been run in isolation and limited in scope.
As a trade union and community of authors, we have a duty to find positive, measurable ways to challenge structural inequalities wherever we encounter them.
And as an old organisation, that has worked at the heart of the publishing industry for over a century, we have a responsibility to reflect on our own practices, to ensure that we are always part of the solution.
We'd love to hear your thoughts and ideas. Please let us know how you think the SoA can become a more inclusive, diverse and representative trade union.
Find out more about where we stand on inclusivity in the publishing industry.
- Literature Alliance Scotland's EDI Resource Bank. This free Resource Bank signposts to help, how-tos and research.
- Inc Arts Minds is a service providing free group therapy sessions for ethnically diverse members of the creative industries.