The Diversity Baseline Survey

Taking a Look in the Mirror

Publishing suffers from a major diversity problem. It is obvious that the vast majority of books published are by white authors and about white characters. The majority of the staff behind the scenes, which includes publishers’ employees, and reviewers, are white. For decades there has been overwhelming agreement in the industry that there should be more diversity at all levels and in all areas of the book world, but even with greater awareness, the problem never seems to go away. Is this problem too big to solve?

The answer is, we have no idea how big the problem is. While there is now data available about diversity among books published, there is still only minimal data available about diversity among publishing staff and reviewers.

As in any business, when you have a problem you must understand it before you can solve it. 

Our goal with the Diversity Baseline Survey (DBS) is to establish a baseline that shows where we are now so we can start taking concrete steps to address the problem.


The DBS was inspired by a similar movement in the technology industry, led by Pinterest engineer Tracy Chou. Tracy pointed to tech’s lack of diversity—and lack of data—and was able to galvanize the entire industry to release staff diversity numbers in 2014. We posted a study on our blog called The Diversity Gap in Silicon Valley that breaks down the problem and the responses, and we encourage you to read it.

The release of tech’s diversity staff numbers sparked a wave of practical initiatives that are aimed at closing the diversity gap. From addressing the staff pipeline issues with organizations like Black Girls CODE, which set a goal to train a million girls of color to code by 2040, to Intel’s budgeting of $300 million toward diversifying its workforce in three to five years, the tech industry has created the necessary momentum and risen to the challenge.

The DBS is publishing’s chance to create our own moment for change. By compiling information about the makeup of our staffs, we will develop a baseline showing where the industry is now and create a culture of transparency. Once we have the numbers, we can move on to the important work of improving those numbers. The progress made will be in plain sight and public knowledge.


We are lucky to be partnering with St. Catherine University, which will handle the data end of the survey. Sarah Park Dahlen, Ph.D., Assistant Professor in the Master of Library and Information Science Program will be the project lead at St. Catherine. In addition to the statistical resources that Dr. Dahlen will provide, she also has a deep knowledge and respect for children’s literature and is an advocate for diversity.

Here are the journals and publishers that participated in Diversity Baseline Survey (DBS) 1.0:

Review Journals

Foreword Reviews
Horn Book
Kirkus Reviews
Library Journal
Publishers Weekly
School Library Journal

Albert Whitman
Annick Press
Arte Publico Press
Beacon Press
Bloomsbury Publishing
Candlewick Press
Chronicle Books
Cinco Puntos Press
Clean Reads
Dancing Lemur Press, L.L.C.
Fitzhenry & Whiteside
Hachette Book Group
Holiday House
Just Us Books
Kids Can Press
Lee & Low Books
Lerner Publishing Group
Mango Media
Owlkids Books
Peachtree Publishers
Penguin Random House
Pomelo Books
Sasquatch Books
Second Story Press
Tilbury House Publishers
Tradewind Books


Our survey gathers statistics on publishing staff and reviewers in four major categories:

1) Gender
2) Race/ethnicity
3) Sexual Orientation
4) Disability

These categories will be further broken down by department. The goal is to have all major review journals and publishers—from small, to mid-size, to large— participate in this project. If we are serious about trying to address the lack of diversity in the publishing world, this is the very first step we need to take. Sharing our numbers as an industry will not only clue us in to important patterns that may be missing, it will also show that we are committed to change.

Administering the Survey

How Will Staff Be Surveyed?  

We will be using to create and share the survey. Participating organizations will receive a link to the survey to share with their staff. In order to protect employee privacy, the survey will be administered by Dr. Sarah Park Dahlen of St. Catherine University. Only Dr. Dahlen and her research team at St. Catherine University will be able to access survey results. Individual companies will not have access to employee surveys.

What Will the Survey Look Like?

Download this document to see the categories we will survey. 

Reporting Results

Dr. Dahlen and her team at St. Catherine University will compile industry-wide statistics to share. Statistics will be presented in aggregate and not broken down individually by publisher, in order to protect the privacy of respondents and comply with state and federal employment law.


Some of us may hesitate to take this first step because of concern that our numbers will not reflect enough diversity and may hurt our industry’s reputation or make us vulnerable. But the obstacles to greater diversity among publishing and reviewing staff—pipeline, retention, recruiting—affect us all, and it is only together that we can start to address them. When titan-sized tech companies like Apple, Google, and Facebook revealed their numbers, they were hardly diverse. School Library Journal just released their reviewer diversity numbers and the world did not end! All these companies were willing to be transparent, and they recognized that sharing the numbers was the first step to changing them. If they can do it, we can do it.

Where Do I Start?

Tell us you’re participating so we can add you to the list and send you a link to the survey to share with your staff. The survey shouldn’t take long to fill out so you don’t need to give respondents a large window of time to complete it. The Diversity Baseline Survey is now closed to any new reviewers or publishers.

I Am a Publisher or Reviewer and I Want to Participate
Contact us at

Contact us at

2015 Diversity Baseline Survey (DBS) Is Now Public

Read: 2015 Diversity Baseline Survey (DBS)

Read: Behind the Scenes of Publishing’s First Diversity Baseline Survey

Read: The Diversity Baseline Survey: What Happens Next?

Read: Coming in 2020: The Diversity Baseline Survey 2.0

For Press Contact:

Contact Hannah Ehrlich at

About Lee & Low Books

Lee & Low Books is the largest multicultural children's book publisher in the United States.
We are your diversity source.

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