Important step for diversity at Penguin UK

The appointment of Preena Gadher to MD of Penguin General in the UK is significant. It is the first time a woman of colour has joined the Penguin Random House UK leadership team and it could yet mark the beginning of a journey that will yet see Gadher made chief executive of Penguin UK.

She joins the company on 1 September, replacing Joanna Prior who has become CEO of Pan Macmillan. Gadher was previously leader and co-founder of publicity agency Riot Communications which has won a number of awards for its approach to diversity and inclusion.

She said: “After 14 years, I have decided to step down as MD of Riot. It has been one of the hardest professional decisions I’ve ever made, but when an exceedingly rare opportunity presents itself, at a time when you know your team is perfectly positioned to take over the successful running of things, it’s the right time for change.

“The opportunity to lead Penguin General, a division I have long admired for the breadth, depth and inclusivity of its list, is a dream job. It is a division that has grown from strength to strength thanks to an exceptionally talented team of staff and an incredible roster of authors. What a privilege then, to steer it, not least as someone who started their career in publishing at Penguin almost 20 years ago, as the wide-eyed work experience. I hope my appointment encourages those just starting out in the industry, or anyone who might have felt that they didn’t belong in it. I can’t wait to return to my first employer, and work alongside the Penguin General team to continue the division’s success.”

Penguin UK CEO Tom Weldon said: “Leading Penguin General is one of the most prestigious roles in publishing and I felt a huge sense of responsibility to find the right person to take on that mantle. I could not be more pleased or excited that it will be Preena. We held an extensive open recruitment process for this role and Preena stood out from the very start. Not only is she smart, talented and thoughtful, but also an inspiring entrepreneur, role model and advocate. I am hugely impressed by the way she has established and built an award-winning agency, with such a progressive approach to diversity and inclusion, from the ground-up. I know that leaving Riot has been an incredibly hard decision for Preena, but I am thrilled that she has chosen to return to Penguin and take the helm at Penguin General.”

Gadher’s voice on issues of diversity is a powerful one. In 2016 Gahder told Gorhana News: “I’ve never really understood why the colour of one’s skin should have any bearing on achieving one’s dreams. As a child, I can remember my dad once telling me how I’d have to work twice as hard as a white person to achieve the same level of success. I refused to believe it was true, but working in the arts industry I see how right he was. The lack of diversity in TV, film, theatre and books is a sad state of affairs. So when people like Charlotte Rampling say maybe the black actors weren’t good enough to win at the Oscars, or Michael Caine says we need to be “patient”, it makes me very depressed. No Ms Rampling, we’re actually working twice as hard but the playing field is not level. And sorry Mr Caine, we’re done waiting.”