Issues surrounding inclusion and support for women in publishing are explored during a fascinating panel lead and moderated by President of the IPA, and founder of the PublisHer initiative, Bodour Al Qasimi
16 November 2022: As a leader and advocate on issues surrounding women in publishing, Bodour Al Qasimi has moderated a thought-provoking panel discussion at the 33rd International Publishers Congress in Jakarta, Indonesia, entitled PublisHer: Trailblazing Women in Publishing.
Since Bodour became Vice President of the International Publishers Association (IPA) in 2018, and during her subsequent two-year tenure as the association's President which began in 2020, Bodour has been deeply aware of the gaps, and often times chasms, in the equitable representation of women within the industry.
As a publisher in her own right, this serious issue inspired Bodour to establish the PublisHer initiative. Led by an executive board comprised of senior female publishing executives, PublisHer is committed to taking action on publishing's long-standing diversity and inclusion challenges, driving appreciation in the value women's voices, developing concepts of best practice and advocacy for women in publishing and addressing obstacles that are preventing women entering the field – all incredibly complex subjects which are affected by many macro-cultural, geographical and market factors.
Indeed, it was these diverse factors which were eloquently and carefully explored in Jakarta by Bodour and her esteemed panel of speakers – Fryza Pavitta Puspanegara, Co-founder and Director of Simpul Group in Indonesia, Latoya West Blackwood, Board Member of PublisHer and ex Chair of the Book Industry Association of Jamaica and Flavia Bravin, Publishing Executive, Cogna/Saber in Brazil.
Beyond the wider and more general themes of inclusion, this powerful conversation explored how contemporary market conditions have directly impacted women in the field – how the Covid-19 pandemic negatively effected inclusion and diversity, how the downturn triggered by the pandemic instigated inclusion's de-prioritisation as publishers struggled to survive subsequent supply chain interruptions, and how devaluation and inflation has eroded publishing incomes due to changes in consumer behaviour.
The panel also examined how demographic changes in publishing could trigger a decline in biblio-diversity across all literary genres, unless mitigated against.
In response to the important issues raised and valuable insights shared at the panel. Bodour spoke of the many consultations and initiatives undertaken by the IPA to support women explaining that the IPA's Publishing and Literacy Committee, who worked on developing the InSPIRe plan, had flagged key challenges including imprecise definition of diversity and inclusion, a lack of common reporting standards, and difficulties in building organizational buy-in.
However, she also suggested that proposed future programs could address these issues – programs synthesizing and publicizing industry statistics to facilitate employer advocacy efforts, publishing and promoting work and speaking opportunities for women, identifying and awarding gender diversity champions and providing information on career trajectories to inspire more women to join publishing.
Bodour also reminded attending delegates that in response to the work undertaken by the IPA, PublisHer has developed a Diversity and Inclusion Toolkit, which is available to download on the PublisHer website.