In 2018 the Association of Canadian Publishers (ACP) released a report of the Anglophone book publishing industry in Canada that examined many features of our industry including its size, shape, geographic distribution, and economic impact. The report findings reflected many well-established facts about publishing in Canada: that the majority of book publishing activity in Canada takes place in Ontario, correlating with higher numbers of publishing jobs,that most Canadian publishing companies are relatively small and, significantly, that the workforce is overwhelmingly comprised of women.
At 70% female, the gender composition of Canadian publishing is roughly on par with other English-speaking publishing industries. In the United States, for instance, a Publishers Weekly survey found that in 2018 the American publishing workforce was 80% female.Furthermore, a 2017 Bookcareer survey of book publishing employees in the United Kingdom found that over 80% of respondents were female.
twice as many, half as powerful
In an industry where women are overrepresented to such an extent, how are we faring? In a nutshell, not well. In fact, women have been advocating for gender equity in the industry for decades. A 1989 report by London-based advocacy group Women in Publishing summed it up: “Twice as Many, Half as Powerful.” Their report confirmed what many women working in the industry already knew: that while the work force was primarily made up of women, it was men who were occupying executive positions and earning higher wages.While the progress towards gender equity that took place in the second half of the twentieth century had, in general, allowed women increased professional mobility, the glass ceiling seemed to be particularly thick in the publishing world. In fact, in the words of Women in Publishing cofounder Jane Gregory, the ceiling was concrete.
More than thirty years after Women in Publishing released their report, the situation has not improved—a 2018 Publishers Weekly salary survey of the American publishing industry found that female employees out‑numbered male employees 4:1, but an average $27,000 wage gap in favour of male employees persisted.In addition to pervasive wage gaps, the publishing industry has also become notorious for its culture of sexual harassment, and female executives continue to be few and far between.
These indications of gender inequity—a gender wage gap, sexual harassment, and the circumscribed advancement of women in the publishing industry—have been well-documented in the United States as well as overseas in the United Kingdom; publications such as Publishers Weekly, the Independent, and The Guardian have all published articles on gender inequity in publishing in the last two years. At the Frankfurt Book Fair in October 2019, gender inequity was discussed in a Publishing Perspectives talk entitled “Women’s Leadership in Publishing.” Additionally, the Women in Publishing project continues to advocate for gender equity in the industry.
The last decade has also borne witness to the catalyzing effect of grassroots activism on a global scale. The social media movements #MeToo and #TimesUp have produced a groundswell of conversation in the global community around issues of gender equity in various industries. In publishing specifically, the #PublishingPaidMe corpus represents a similar challenge to the status quo in regards to diversity and inclusion, as does the group Book Worker Power.
The Status of Women in Canadian Publishing.
In the midst of the gender equity dialogue taking place globally, there is a dearth of conversation around the issue here in Canada. The data tells us that the issues that proliferate in the American and British industries are also common in our domestic trade; statistics gathered by various studies such as the ACP’s 2018 industry profile, their 2019 diversity baseline study, and Quill and Quire’s 2019 survey on sexual harassment prove that gender inequity is a problem in Canadian publishing. As an industry, however, we have yet to move beyond this trickle of raw data to formulate any sort of response or strategy for balancing the scales.
Unfortunately, as publishing is a relatively young area of scholarship here in Canada, there are few places for critical analysis and discussion regarding the publishing industry to take place. Furthermore, as our publishing industry is relatively small, it often evades the focus of large-scale Canadian workforce studies, which usually focus on more ubiquitous fields where women tend to over-index, such as education and health care. In view of the global conversation around gender equity both within and outside of the publishing industry, however, it’s clear that a frank and intersectional conversation about the status of women in Canadian publishing is long overdue.
While gender is the main focus of this research, there are numerous other identity markers that impact a person’s vulnerability to sexual abuse, access to fair and equal pay, and ability to advance in any given industry, including publishing. Some of these markers include race, sexual orientation, economic status, and ability status. In fact, the specific convergence of these identity markers makes a person vulnerable to unique forms of discrimination that are more complicated than simply sexism, racism, et cetera. A framework used to articulate these interdependent and multi-faceted systems of oppression is the theory of intersectionality, first proposed by critical race theorist Kimberlé Crenshaw in 1989.
Over the course of researching and writing this report, my own understanding of Crenshaw’s intersectionality framework has grown substantially, and I expect that it will continue to grow and mature after this report is completed. It’s impossible for me to extricate this work from my own position as a white, straight, able-bodied, cis-gendered woman, as this identity intersection is the perspective from which I learn and work. Unfortunately, the publishing industry is, for many structural reasons, comprised of women like me—white, straight, able-bodied, and cis-gendered—and as a result, much of the equity work that has been done historically in publishing has centered this specific experience.
I would like to have a nuanced conversation about gender equity in publishing from an intersectional perspective. I believe that the rising tide must lift all boats, and that there is no equity—of any type—where inequity is allowed to endure. That being said, this report is limited in essential ways by the work that has come before it. There are significant gaps in the data that preclude the type of robust, data-driven conversations I would like to have about intersectional equity in publishing. To counter this, I have drawn upon an array of journalistic sources to help fill in the gaps—to include the experiences of women of colour, disabled women, and women from the working class. There is undoubtedly more that could be said than I am able to include in this report, but I have strived for an inclusive foundation upon which our industry can continue this conversation.
In addition to the available data failing to account for other various modes of disenfranchisement that intersect with and complicate gender inequity, the male vs. female dichotomy employed in this discussion assumes a gender binary. This binary reflects a cisnormative conceptualization of gender, and is inherited from data and discourse that often excludes people who are non-binary and gender nonconforming. There is a lot of work to be done in dismantling patriarchal conceptions of gender, but unfortunately that work is beyond the scope of this report.
To encourage conversation about the publishing industry’s deep-seated inequities, I have strived for inclusive and intersectional analysis, but this work has been limited in fundamental ways by both the data available and by the scope of this report. With that in mind, this report is intended to be the beginning, not the entirety of a conversation that is long overdue in Canadian publishing. There is a lot of work to be done if we are to imagine a more equitable publishing industry in Canada, and this report is offered in support of these efforts.
the structure of this report
This report, submitted as a final project in the Master of Publishing program at Simon Fraser University, gathers information on the status of women in Canadian Anglophone book publishing and situates it in a global context. To accomplish this, I have examined data from sources such as the ACP and Quill and Quire, and have collated these with comparable studies conducted in the United States and the United Kingdom. I have also integrated a wealth of anecdotal and journalistic evidence from various industry publications to round out the data, and to allow for a more inclusive analysis. This combination of quantitative and qualitative information forms a comprehensive snapshot of the publishing industry and provides a foundation for an inclusive discussion of gender equity in the publishing industry. Where a lack of data precludes productive and nuanced conversation, I have identified those gaps and made recommendations for study and discussion in that area.
Domains of Gender Inequity.
The report is divided into three significant domains of gender inequity in the publishing industry: sexual harassment, circumscribed advancement, and the wage gap. I begin each of these sections by exploring the issue from a global publishing perspective using the abundance of information available from the United States and the United Kingdom before examining the issue from a Canadian perspective. My intention with this approach is twofold: first, to establish a clear argument that these issues continue to proliferate in the industry, and second to situate the issue in Canada as part of a global picture of gender inequity in publishing.
Following the discussion of the obstacles that women face in publishing, I discuss the colonial and racist legacy of Canadian publishing, and how this history has produced a modern industry that is predisposed to inequity in many forms. This chapter takes a closer look at how gender inequity intersects with other race-, class- , and ability-based equity issues in the publishing industry, and how these inequities produce a strikingly homogenous publishing workforce. In truth, each of these domains of inequity in publishing deserves its own separate discussion, however due to the scope of this report and the data available, I have collapsed these issues into a single chapter. My hope is that this report will encourage deeper conversations around the racism, classism, ableism, cissexism, and heterosexism that exist in our industry.
The final chapter of this report discusses structural changes in the industry that impact women specifically, the power and importance of good data, and the ways in which women are pushing back against the patriarchal structures of traditional publishing. This chapter casts a hopeful eye to the future of our industry, suggesting that a more equitable tide might be rising—one that would result in not only a more inclusive industry, but a stronger one as well.
looking back, looking forward, getting to work
This conversation in Canada is long overdue; it has been over thirty years since the UK’s Women in Publishing project published “Twice as Many, Half as Powerful,” and in Canada we are only just beginning to come to terms with the extent to which our industry is plagued by the same inequities. This report is intended to encourage conversation and, hopefully, to begin to inform the work necessary to bring about transformative change in Canadian publishing.
- Nordicity, “Canadian Book Publishing Industry Profile: Final Report,” (Association of Canadian Publishers, July 2018), 11.
- Nordicity, “Canadian Book Publishing Industry Profile,” 8.
- Ibid., 16.
- Jim Milliot, “The PW Publishing Industry Salary Survey, 2018,” Publishers Weekly, November 9, 2018.
- “Salary Survey Results 2017”, Bookcareers.com, 2017.
- Harriet Marsden, “A Gentleman’s Profession? The Women Fighting for Gender Equality in Publishing,” Independent, April 6, 2018.
- Marsden, “A Gentleman’s Profession?”.
- Milliot, “The PW Publishing Industry Salary Survey”