Publishing needs address its ableism problem

A good piece on how things should change now that we know everyone doesn’t need to have an ass in particular seat near the boss to get things done. (Besides benefiting the disabled who have been systematically shut out of jobs that they might otherwise be qualified for, I’ve been saying for years that people removed from centres of business (like me) could also do these jobs. I keep getting offered positions in Toronto, Ottawa, New York, etc, — mostly comms and digital media jobs that could be done remotely — but I can’t leave here because my kids are here. Seemed dumb then, seems downright stupid now.)

Up until the Covid-19 pandemic, most book publishing jobs have required employees to work in the office with little room for remote flexibility. Now the same publishers who denied disabled and chronically ill people the ability to work from home are requesting that their staff do just that. Accommodations to work remotely are prioritized when public health issues affect everyone, including nondisabled staff, but are deemed impossible when the request comes from a disabled employee.

While there are definitely functions in publishing that can’t be performed entirely remotely, such as warehouse jobs and production jobs, the pandemic has made it clear many tasks can be completely or at least partially remote if publishers allow them to be. Over half of American workers could work from home at least some of the time, according to an analysis of data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics by research firm Global Workplace Analytics.

If there’s a lesson that publishers can learn from this pandemic, it’s that our industry needs more remote-friendly opportunities if we want to address the widespread ableism and inequality in publishing. We need more remote opportunities in book publishing. Of 166 recent job listings for positions at Hachette, Macmillan, Penguin Random House, Scholastic, and Simon & Schuster, only two specify that they are open to remote candidates, and one of those two is a contract position, not a full- or part-time job.

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