Women’s Corporate Battle: An Update of Publishing’s Status Quo

It’s 2018. You might think we’re done talking about gender inequality. Back in 2016, one of our bloggers, Jessica Demarest, wrote a post highlighting some of the organizations dedicated to publishing the female voice. From VIDA to Catherine Nichols, these individuals drew attention to the inequalities in the publishing industry and made changes to combat them. But while these movements were meant to change the status quo, the odds are still stacked against women two years later.


According to Publishers Weekly, women have actually increased their presence in corporate publishing. It’s up to 80 percent compared to 74 percent in 2015. Women continue to dominate editorial roles, operations and production, as well as sales and marketing. And while this all sounds really progressive, now comes the tricky part.


Although three years ago women held 54 percent of management positions, that number’s recently gone down to 49 percent. This might not seem like a big deal. After all, 49 is still really close to 50. But not only do managers have heavy influence in publishing, they are also the highest-paid positions. We definitely shouldn’t be moving backwards in hiring women in power positions and, by default, women shouldn’t be paid less. The salary difference between the men and women who hold these positions stands around $10,000. And that’s nothing compared to the average difference across all jobs: $28,000.


What accounts for these wage gaps? Ultimately, it boils down to gender bias. While the publishing industry is majority women, they mainly hold positions in the lower-salaried jobs, which means less influence. Managers direct publications and make the decisions that have a larger impact, meaning women’s voices are heard less. They have little say in who gets published, which is still as much of an issue as who is publishing.


Even in the positions they do hold, women have a harder time advancing their careers and being recognized for their work. Men also tend to have longer careers than women, a large reason being they aren’t faced with the same pressures of devoting time to raise a family. More experience gives executives a justifiable reason to give men higher salaries and promote them over their female colleagues.


But not all hope is lost. While corporate publishing has yet to improve the field for women, independent publishing is rising in the ranks. Tramp Press, an independent Irish publishing company run by Sarah Davis-Goff and Lisa Coen, is actively combating sexism through its submission process. While addressing letters to “Dear Sirs” may seem outdated, there are still plenty of writers who use this greeting. But Davis-Goff and Coen aren’t having any of it. Now, in their submission guidelines, the women specify: “We try to be as upfront as possible in who we are and our publishing viewpoint: with that in mind if you address us as ‘Dear Sirs,’ or list only male influences, we will decline to consider your work.”


Luckily, Tramp Press is not alone. Women like Kate Wilson, who are fed up with the corporate, are breaking away from corporations and catering to their own creative wants and needs. With over thirty years of experience in the publishing industry, Wilson established Nosy Crow, a children’s book publisher that has won the Independent Publishers Guild Children’s Publisher of the Year Award for the past two years. Like other publishers, she recognized the space in the industry and filled it with creative freedom and flexibility.


Now, for some speculation. Back in 2015, Pakistani novelist Kamile Shamsie proposed 2018 be the year of publishing women. Was she too idealistic in her proposal? Or did she just recognize it would take something this radical to shake things up? Maybe 2018 isn’t the year, but that doesn’t mean it’s out of the question.