Beth Cox on diversity and inclusivity
by Sophie Terry, studying on MA Publishing Media
Diversity and inclusivity are important topics in any industry, particularly within publishing where there is a large audience reach. A few weeks ago I attended a guest lecture on ‘Creating Inclusive Content’ from Beth Cox, who is an Inclusion and Equality Consultant for children’s book publishing. The talk began with a brief introduction from Beth about the work she does to create inclusive content and how we can bridge the gap for those who are marginalized.
Children’s publishing has a great influence on the impressionable minds of young people, whose futures are shaped by their experiences and the books to which they are introduced. Starting from a young age, their differences can be normalized, and they can go forward with their dreams without being made to feel inadequate or unsupported. Cox admitted that her collective ‘Inclusive Minds’ – a programme supporting young Inclusion Ambassadors with ‘first-hand knowledge of diversity’ - was partly about convincing the industry that they needed to make their books more inclusive. Her collective encourages young people, authors and publishers to work together to make their books more authentic, without offence and to open up a much-needed discussion of diversity.
Beth Cox commented: ‘Inclusivity should be focused on including a range of the best people rather than creating diverse books.’ In particular, she noted some common mistakes around diversity. For instance, the ‘belief that inclusive books must have a message’, when books can just have a represented group with a ‘normal’ plotline. She further states that trying to make every book inclusive seems almost impossible without coming across as tokenistic, especially if the publishers are not confident in understanding the basic principles of inclusion. It is a matter of seeing whether a book can be inclusive and working out how to make this happen in the best way possible.
To be diverse, we must show a great deal of variety or a range of different things. To be inclusive, it is the action of including or of being included within a group or structure. Cox further emphasized that while we are raising the profile of inclusive books, the industry is still somewhat in two minds about these books as they are often separated from the mainstream through diverse initiatives and diverse book awards. But for underrepresented books to truly be seen in the book industry, they must be a part of the mainstream book business so that they are normalized and not seen as a category that is ‘different’.
The publishing industry still has some progress to make regarding diversity and inclusion, but as individuals we should be aware of our own progress whether or not we have an active role in the industry. Beth Cox advised us on how we can respectfully include marginalized groups through well-illustrated characters, language and authentic portrayal.
Last edited: 23 03 2021