An update on HBG’s diversity and inclusion efforts (September 2020)

On Tuesday, September 8, 2020, HBG CEO Michael Pietsch wrote to employees:

“Throughout the summer I’ve been working with HR, division and department heads, and interested individuals across the company to come up with an appropriate set of actions and approaches to increase the number of persons of color at HBG and to make us an overall more inclusive company.  This is an incredibly important conversation, about a large number of significant goals.  Some we can accomplish quickly, others will take concentrated efforts over years.  I appreciate your engagement and your commitment to helping us change HBG for the better.”  The initiatives were spelled out in a Diversity and Inclusion Progress Report shared with all employees (see below for report highlights).

The progress report continues a dialogue that started at HBG’s annual Mid-Year Meeting on June 30, five weeks after the murder of George Floyd, when Pietsch addressed the steps HBG needed to take to become a more diverse and inclusive company, and the urgency of those efforts. “The outpouring of fed-up rage and protests and the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement represent an extraordinary moment, or series of moments, that have brought a serious reckoning across our industry—and here at HBG—about our diverse representation,” Pietsch said at the meeting.  “I’m very proud of the antiracist books that HBG has published in past years, and we can applaud the editors and publishers who have been doing that important work.  And we can thank our HR teams and individuals who have worked hard on outreach, recruiting, and other ways of increasing the diversity of our applicant pools.  But I’ve had to acknowledge to you all, that the work we have done has not led to the results we want.  We don’t have nearly sufficient diversity at HBG.”

The Diversity and Inclusion Progress Report includes a new statement of HBG’s commitment to diversity and an update on a wide range of initiatives, which were informed by extensive employee feedback and ideas gathered in an anonymous online focus group in June and suggestions submitted in advance of the annual Mid-Year Meeting. The initiatives fall into five categories – Leadership, Recruitment and Hiring, Culture and Retention, Publishing, and Community – and HBG is committed to making measurable improvements across these five focus areas.


A search has begun for HBG’s first VP of Diversity and Inclusion. The Executive Management Board and Senior Management Board received Diversity and Inclusion training this summer (with further training being planned), and all HBG managers will receive training by year end.

Recruitment and Hiring

HBG’s goal is to have its employees represent the diversity of our country.  Michael Pietsch shared statistics about diversity at HBG at the annual Mid-Year Meeting in June and acknowledged that the company was specifically lacking in diversity at the senior management level. Overall, the HBG US workforce is 69 percent white; 4 percent Black; 18 percent Hispanic; 7 percent Asian; and 2 percent bi-multiracial. At the senior management level (director and above), 80% of the HBG workforce is white. Of 2019/2020 new hires, 61% were white (69% white at the senior management level.) These statistics will be updated and shared with staff on an annual basis.

The company is identifying new recruitment sources and broadening its applicant pool by expanding searches for positions that can be done effectively from HBG’s other locations or outside of their offices, among other new approaches. HBG has launched several new partnerships that will support people of color interested in joining HBG, and the company is increasing its recruiting outreach to Historically Black Colleges and Universities, as well as LGBTQ+ recruiting sources.

Culture and Retention

HBG created Employee Resource (Affinity) Groups to allow people to share experiences and make recommendations for improvements. Diversity and Inclusion training will be conducted for all employees before the end of the year and will include unconscious-bias and microaggression-awareness training. HBG is committed to expanding communication about diversity and inclusion, including open houses in September and October, updates about progress regularly throughout the year, including an annual Diversity Report, biannual updates at HBG’s All Employee Meeting and Mid-Year Meeting, and other communications on important developments as they occur.


An audit of the diversity of HBG’s publishing programs was completed and shared with employees in June, indication that 22% of 2019 acquisitions by authors and illustrators new to the HBG lists were persons of color. Publishers are establishing goals for broadening the diversity of their publishing lists through acquisitions of new authors and illustrators of color.  The Publishers are also exploring new imprints and programs dedicated to expanding diverse voices and perspectives. And HBG is establishing priorities and goals in support of representation in their consumer marketing to ensure that it mirrors the diversity of HBG’s authors and reaches all readers.


donation to school libraries of a collection of HBG books by writers of color on the subjects of antiracism, empathy, and social justice will begin next week. HBG will increase its donations to organizations supporting equality and social justice (following contributions in June to Black Lives Matter, NAACP Legal Defense Fund, and Color of Change), and will renew and expand their commitment to social service programs to ensure HBG plays a positive role in their communities. Lastly, HBG will review the diversity of their suppliers and partners and increase the company’s relationships with minority-owned businesses.