The Rise of Women’s Voices in Publishing

Publishing is another one of those despite-all-the-advancements industries that’s faltering under recent scrutiny. 

In addition to a documented pay gap within publishing houses themselves, a 2018 study also found that women-authored books are priced 45% lower than books authored by men. More recently we’ve seen the rise of the #PublishingPaidMe hashtag, which ignited a conversation about the disparities between how much authors make. (This Buzzfeed article explains it well.) 

A yearly analysis of gender bias on The New York Times bestseller list digs into the data of writers whose works are featured in and reviewed by literary outlets. The most recent study shows that female authors are publishing more, yet the gender ratio on the NYT bestseller list remains below 50%. However, while “the major literary prizes still skew male… there’s clear market signal that women authors are just as commercially viable as men.”

Better book news is out there

We may be far removed from the George Eliot days where women had to publish under a pseudonym to be taken seriously (or are we?), but there’s more promising news out there if you look. In July Simon & Schuster named Dana Canedy its new SVP and publisher. Canedy, a former reporter for The New York Times and published author herself, won a Pulitzer in 2001 for her work on “How Race is Lived in America.” She is the first black person (and only the third woman) to head a major publishing house. In a PBS interview, Canedy said she’s committed to both equality and diversity and asks to be held accountable for progress. 

And just last month Elle Magazine pointed out an uptick in accolades for Black women writers with an honest piece: Black Women Are Topping Best Seller Lists. What Took So Long? The author celebrates recent gains while also describing the years of frustration she felt “as a Black woman who learned from a lifetime’s worth of class curricula that to be ‘well-read’ meant to immerse myself in white authorship.” I couldn’t have been the only reader thinking: Same, girl. Same.

New books from our Operator Collective community 

We find even more good news right here in our own Operator Collective community, where we have three LPs with books coming out in a two-week span. Just as contemporary fiction female writers have become more honest in their portrayals of racial and gender identities, health, mental illness, and family struggles, these women leaders bring an intense honesty to the workplace. They hold nothing back in order to change the conversation on women’s issues, both in the office and at home.

  • Shellye Archambeau’s Unapologetically Ambitious, recounts the challenges the author faced as a young Black woman, wife, and mother, while climbing the ranks at IBM and later as a CEO. She uses her own stories to relay approaches and practical strategies for others to employ on their journeys.
  • Bonita Stewart’s A Blessing: Women of Color Teaming Up to Lead, Empower, and Thrive offers a deep-dive analysis of Black female leaders and even offers a playbook of sorts to help Black women support one another as they climb what can be a lonely and stressful career ladder.
  • Maelle Gavet’s Trampled by Unicorns: Big Tech’s Empathy Problem and How to Fix It explores how the tech industry has both pushed humanity forward and also created an immense empathy deficit. Gavet is honest in her history, yet takes care to include specific calls to action to help drive lasting change. 

Now’s the time to find your voice

You know that book you’ve always been dying to write? That storyline or drama that evolves in your mind every night as you drift off to sleep? Publishing is at a tipping point, forced to reckon with gender and racial biases, so perhaps now’s the time to find your voice and get going on that first draft. 

We celebrate this rise in women authors – within our own community and across the globe – and look forward to the changes this year brings as we continue to push for parity in new places. As these changes continue, I can’t wait to see your book on the bestseller list. 

Right next to mine.

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