Last week we wrote that we aren’t surprised when we have to write about the gender gap in traditionally male dominated fields like technology, engineering and surgery. But it is troublesome when we find ourselves writing about the pay gap in female-dominated fields like publishing. That’s why we’re so excited about the Exceptional Women in Publishing panel, which is happening tomorrow at the 2012 Women’s Leadership Conference in San Francisco, where our CEO Elaine Kunda will be speaking.
“A business that subsists on the purchasing power of women can only be improved by women taking leadership roles and guiding these companies toward content that appeals to other women,” said Kunda. This is more important than ever. Last week we got a rude awakening when new data on magazines including the Atlantic, Harper’s, and the Nation found an overwhelming imbalance when it comes to who gets published, and who gets written about. “In the literary world, men are still in charge,” Grindstone staff writer Ruth Graham wrote.
A young feminist organization called VIDA: Women in Literary Arts is uncovering this data. They looked at 14 publications, breaking most down by the gender of authors reviewed in their pages, and the gender of contributors of both features and book reviews. From that data, VIDA made 37 fascinating pie charts, divided into men (red) and women (blue). Only two — two! — of the charts show more blue than red. That means that in all these magazines, by almost every measure, men outnumber women. And apparently these numbers were the same in 2010.
And not only are less women getting published but when they do write a book or an article, they don’t get as much press as their male counterparts. Reporter Eugenia Williamson found that NPR, arguably the most far-reaching book-review outlet in America, favors men. It featured or talked about male authors about 70% of the time. Between August 1 and November 31 of 2011, roughly 60 works of fiction discussed on NPR were written by men. Only about 20 were written by women.
This is why events focusing on female leadership in publishing are so important. The Exceptional Women in Publishing panel will focus on how publishing to a female audience has changed, both in content and language, as our society has evolved and how the marketplace is responding to those changes.
As Kunda says:
“Women are among the most powerful consumers in the marketplace. As modern society and media evolve, publishers must remain adaptable in order to successfully connect with this highly influential audience.”
Kunda will share the stage with leading female publishing executives Jeanniey Mullen, Global Executive Vice President / CMO, Zinio & Vivmag; Barb Newton, President, Sunset Publishing Corporation; Susan West, Principal, West Gold Editorial Consulting (moderator); and Jocelyn Zuckerman, Executive Editor, Whole Living. Kunda said, “Participating in the Women’s Leadership Conference is an invaluable opportunity to exchange ideas and engagement strategies with some of the brightest, most innovative women in the field.” And obviously, the field of publishing needs more events like this.