AEP Creates New Committee Focused on Diversity in Educational Publishing

Educational publishers know that in order to serve the needs of today’s increasingly diverse student and teacher population, they need to create materials that reflect varied communities and cultures. In 2009 AEP launched the Improving Learning Resources Through Diversity (ILRTD) initiative as a way to attract and retain diverse populations to the field of educational publishing. Now, AEP is creating a Diversity Committee, chaired by David Rust, Partner at Sandhill Consulting Group LLC  to further this mission. Rust’s goals for the Committee are to identify the obstacles that publishers face and to develop effective strategies for companies of all sizes and geographic locations.

“Broadly speaking, I want the group to create implementation models that acknowledge the varying challenges (size, location, publications produced, market) faced by educational publishers,” said Rust. “We also need to show members that a more diverse workforce is more likely to stimulate new modes of thought for these turbulent times in our industry.”

While many companies already have diversity policies, the practical ways to expand the workforce are not always apparent. Here are just a few of the obstacles that publishers face, according to Rust.

  1. Talent pool: Managers and recruiters are often only aware of the traditional pool in their local area and need help expanding their employee searches.
  2. Time: Implementing a program that seeks out and supports a diverse workforce takes time–more so when each company must develop its own plan from the beginning.
  3. Priorities: Frequently managers believe that a position is so critical that diversity goals must be put aside in the search for just the right fit for a position, opting for the safer or more conventional choice.  Management must come to accept that by considering a broader talent pool, and taking a little more time, a more potent fit can be achieved within a diversity agenda.

Companies cannot restrict their efforts either to management- or entry-level positions. “In my experience, you can’t just bring in someone diverse for an upper level position and hope they hire appropriately; or concentrate on entry-level workers, who can be slow to advance and impact the company,” said Rust. “Support is needed at both levels to advance a diversity mission.”

Rust plans to have the Committee study successful programs both in educational publishing and other industries in order to leverage those accomplishments. The key is to make sure that any solutions respect the complexities of the various situations faced by different companies in different market segments and locales. In addition to developing strategies, he would also like the Committee to offer technical support to those implementing diversity plans.

“Of course, companies may need to bite the bullet on some items, like relocation funding, in order to bring diversity to their company,” observed Rust. “However they begin, we hope to encourage them to start now.  Despite the other challenges we face in our industry, there will never be a better moment to take the first step.”

An outside Advisory Board will be meeting in September and November to develop the overarching plan for creating a diversity program that addresses the employer, candidate, and educational aspects as well as the funding requirements. Diversity Committee participation is open to any AEP member who is interested in helping to create strategies and action plans to increase diversity in our industry. For more information, contact Susan Fletcher at 302-295-8343.

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