PublisHer Social Media Officer Sarah-Louise Alsop explains how the 2020 PublisHer mentorship scheme has opened doors

In November of 2020, I was not long into my MA in Publishing at Oxford Brookes University. I was still very new to the publishing world, but have always been passionate about gender equality, which is why I applied for the PublisHer mentorship program.

I don’t mind admitting that I was very intimidated to discover that my mentor meeting was to be with the founder of PublisHer and (then) future President of the International Publishers Association, Bodour Al Qasimi.

Needless to say, it was the most fantastic, friendly and helpful meeting I’ve ever had. I had the opportunity to ask her about the world of publishing, her experience within it, and the ways her work aims to deconstruct the system that holds women back from reaching their full potential – especially at the decision-making tiers – in the publishing world.

I could never have imagined the extent to which this one encounter would shape my life.

In its wake, and by virtue of my own productive social media output, I was approached by Bodour’s team and invited to work for PublisHer running its social media channels. I leapt at the chance.

Through this role, I have been able to create blog collaborations with Fairtales, the blog for Bologna Children’s Book Fair, connecting them with independent publishers and others in the literature arena throughout the world. What is more, having some solid experience in social media marketing made me so much more attractive to potential employers, especially as my previous experience had been limited to the education sector.

I’m a firm believer in the value of mentorship programmes like the ones that PublisHer runs, for so many reasons. It’s fantastic to connect with people from all over the world. It is a great opportunity to see where the publishing world can take you throughout your career. And, of course, for the networking opportunity it offers.

There’s a lot of nepotism in the publishing world, which is something else that needs to be addressed, but I still feel that networking and connecting with your peers and future colleagues is invaluable, because in the people-driven publishing industry employers love to buy in to the person behind the CV.

PublisHer Mentorship 2.0

PublisHer is doing something a little different this year, by turning the tables and proposing a ‘reverse mentoring’ scheme. It is no secret that the world is changing every day, especially in industries like marketing, social media, PR, and so on. Decades of experience will take you so far, but if you are lost in the world of TikTok, BookTok, Bookstagram et al, then you can’t tap the digital world to reach a wider audience and engage with today’s readers – let alone tomorrow’s.

This mentorship program aims to open up these difficult conversations and bridge the gap between experienced publishers and the publishers of tomorrow by making them discuss new innovations and developments that are changing publishing.

Personally, I am more than ready to share what I know about the social media dark arts with anyone who’s ready to listen, but if my student is a senior publishing leader – someone I want to become – then it will make for a uniquely fascinating and richly beneficial dynamic.