Inclusion, Diversity & Representation

Last updated: October 2021 | Next review: December 2021

In 2020 we launched a five-year organisational strategy that put a commitment to inclusion at the heart of everything we do. It was designed to structure, formalise and enable us to continue to develop our existing efforts.

It was also designed to acknowledge that while we have set a direction of travel, we need to do more to structure that work, and to be able to communicate our progress.

Our approach to Inclusion, Diversity & Representation

Inclusion-image.jpg

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.

For authors…

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.

For staff…

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 January 2022 and we will regularly update this page.

IDR-image.jpg

Illustration © Antonio Rodriguez / Adobe Stock

Current activities

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.

Membership

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 & 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.

Advice

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 HQ, we will run these as hybrid events – livestreamed and recorded – to ensure that authors can participate regardless of location and other needs.

Our online events are run with automated closed captioning and we are actively exploring other ways to improve the accessibility of all our events.

The topic of our AGM week events and discussions will be around inclusion, diversity and representation. Details will be circulated to members and available on our website soon.

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 particular underrepresented groups.

Communications

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 staff team

In 2020 we launched a staff-led Inclusivity Network to lead discussions and propose initiatives that will help the SoA on its journey to becoming a measurably inclusive organisation.

We advertise via Creative Access in order to be visible to candidates from underrepresented backgrounds, and we advertise as widely as possible, to ensure visibility to those might not be aware of our work. 

We do not ask for degree qualifications but for relevant skills and experience. We state the salary range on all job adverts, we embrace flexible working and we believe strongly in creating diverse teams.

All staff and board members take part in inclusion, diversity and representation training, which, this year, has included training in unconscious bias, Samaritans training and awareness-raising events with the Human Library Organisation.

Every SoA team is responsible for setting specific strategic goals to improve inclusion, diversity and representation at the organisation.

Every SoA employee is set measurable objectives annually that will help them further the work of their team on inclusion, diversity and representation.

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.

Useful resources

  • Inc Arts Minds is a service providing free group therapy sessions for ethnically diverse members of the creative industries.