Is Publishing The Most Competitive Industry For Women?

We have written about a lot of competitive industries for women on this site–finance, law, fashion, public relations, etc. But one that has gone quietly under the radar is the publishing industry–a  field dominated by women. Based on our interviews with women and men who worked in this industry, we’re learning that publishing might be the most cutthroat industry of all for women.

The industry, like PR, is dominated by females.  In Publisher’s Weekly 2010 Salary Survey  it was found that 85% of publishing employees with less than three years of experience are women. Lindy Hess, director of the graduate Columbia University Publishing Course, said that publishing, like teaching, has been a field that’s traditionally been “more open” to women. Hess said she also assumes that there are more female English majors out there—which may be because women like to read more than men—and that’s reflected in the industry. At Columbia, the program has been 80% women and 20% men for the past four to five years.

More women in publishing would make it seem like it would be a good industry for females, especially when you think of the difficulties male-dominated industries like finance and engineering present for females. But it’s not quite that simple. Based on our comments from a few women and men who worked in publishing, the industry is extremely difficult to get into–and it’s much harder to actually progress up the career ladder. Which seems to be a problem for women especially.

Elizabeth Watson, Editor-in-Chief of, told The Grindstone:

“Young women can’t declare we’re the minority or that it’s hard to get in–far from it. Most frequently debated is why there is a majority of women at this early point in our career, but a minority on the executive level. I’ve even heard peers propose that it’s an ideal industry to be male because if you’re patient, many of your colleagues will start leaving for as they have children–giving easier access to the top.”

Connections seems to be a major issue in publishing. You often can not even get considered for an interview unless you have a connection, especially at the major houses.

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