We need more mentorship programs and networks for people of color within scholarly publishing

Sabrina Robleh | April 9, 2018

The numbers speak for themselves. A survey conducted in 2015 found that 87% of workers in the Scholarly Publishing Industry were and are white. The onus of increasing diversity within the industry falls on not only the hiring practices of publishers but also on the retention of interns and entry-level employees and empowerment of senior colleagues.

After a year and a half in my current role as editorial assistant at a university press, I’ve had the pleasure of working with a few people of color across departments, allowing me to pick their brains on why they do what they do. As I actively reflect on my first publishing job, I hold no illusions about the implicit and explicit bias that work in tandem to bar or dissuade people of color from holding positions within the industry. Yes, there are some mentorship programs and a diversity fellowship, but there isn’t a program that blends the two. This presents a unique opportunity to develop a national network of people of color who work in scholarly communications to hold space for one another. It can be an online and eventually physical space to discuss and implement a mentorship program.

I don’t intend to dismantle white supremacy with a LinkedIn group, nor do I believe greater representation within management replaces critical interrogations of power and privilege amongst our white peers. But diversity and inclusion go beyond mere talking points—safe spaces must exist for people of color within scholarly communications and industry organizations should take an active role in creating them.

NB: This column was written before the Scholarly Kitchen article was released but I wholeheartedly stand with the testimonies of my fellow publishing professionals. It is imperative to have our concerns heard and serious introspection combined with transformative actions.

Author Sabrina Robleh is an editorial assistant at the University of California Press. She received her bachelor’s degree in African American Studies from the University of California Berkeley.