The Wage Gap

The barriers to advancement that the previous chapter explored are quantified in a persistent and significant wage gap that benefits men in publishing. While the data confirms that the wage gap is, indeed, a problem in publishing, a lack of complete and consistent data makes it difficult to determine the magnitude of the problem. Still, the data that we have suggests a troubling lack of pay equity, which may be exacerbated by the notoriously heavy work loads and long hours that are often associated with working in the publishing industry.

data: a primer

Before discussing the data that measures the gender wage gap in publishing, I have to first acknowledge the ways in which this conversation is hindered by the data available. In order for data to be truly useful, it must be consistent—essentially, the data must allow for apples-to-apples comparison. This means that the type of data being gathered must be congruous: in this case, whether wages are measured based on hourly, weekly, or annual earnings. It also means that the ways of analyzing the data must remain the same, which in this case means whether wage is reported as a mean or median value. 

hourly vs. weekly vs. annual wage.

In addition to being consistent, data must also be a meaningful and relevant measurement. As argued by Hilary M. Lips in the paper, “The Gender Pay Gap: Concrete Indicator of Women’s Progress Toward Equality,” comparing hourly wages assumes an equal number of paid hours worked in a week between men and women, which, as women are often responsible for a greater share of domestic duties, is not always the case.1 In the same way, comparing weekly wages assumes that men and women work the same number of weeks in a year, which is also not always the case.2 Essentially, both hourly and weekly wages requires one to guess at the number of hours or weeks worked in order to understand the economic well-being associated with a given wage. Using Lips’s example to illustrate, when a woman applies for a loan to buy a car, she is asked for her earnings in a year—not an hour (or week). It is for this reason that looking at annual earnings as opposed to hourly or weekly earnings “captures the full scope of the financial implications of gender.”3

mean vs. median values.

In the same way as hourly and weekly earnings paint a different picture than annual earnings, looking at mean versus median values also yield different results. Furthermore, reporting either the mean or median values on their own presents an incomplete picture. Together, the mean and median values of a data set illustrate the distribution of a given metric across a spectrum. Taken alone, the mean value flattens the data into a hypothetical middle value, while the median value is easily skewed by outliers at the high or low end of the data set.  

As of 2020, there are no studies of the English-speaking book publishing industry that have published both mean and median annual salaries as a function of gender, which makes it difficult to properly assess the full picture of gender pay inequity in publishing. 

non-salaried wages.

Furthermore, there is a significant contingent of freelance and contract workers in the publishing industry who are often folded into industry data. Nordicity’s Book Publishing Industry Profile, for example, reported that 23% of the book publishing workforce in Canada was comprised of freelance and contract workers, however, the profile reported all findings using an fte (full-time equivalent) measurement, which does not differentiate between modes of employment. It’s significant that freelancers and contracters are being lost in the data, because they represent a significant portion of the workforce, and also because they occupy an economically vulnerable position, as they are without employment benefits. As such, if the wage gap between publishing’s male and female freelancers is in line with the rest of the industry, it may have outsized repercussions for women in caretaking roles. As it currently stands, we don’t know the gender breakdown of publishing’s freelance and contract workforce, or whether or not there are problems with pay equity in this subset of the industry. 

the gender wage gap in publishing

united states.

The problems with data measuring the wage gap in publishing are numerous and ever-present. A 2018 Publishers Weekly salary survey of the American book trade found a 31.1% average annual wage gap in favour of men.4 In that same year, the Institute for Women’s Policy Research reported the national annual wage gap in the United States using median values—they reported a 19.5% median wage gap between men and women.5 As it is impossible to compare average and median values meaningfully, this lack of congruent data makes it difficult to determine how the wage gap in publishing compares to the national wage gap. 

The following year, Publishers Weekly published the median (instead of the average) annual compensation values for men and women, and reported a 25% wage gap in favour of men.6 While at first glance it may appear that the wage gap closed by almost 6% from 2018 to 2019, the fact that average values were reported one year and median values the next makes it impossible to accurately gauge whether there was any change. Furthermore, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics reported the national median wage gap for that same year at only 19%,7 although that figure is based off of weekly earnings as opposed to annual earnings. With a lack of comparable data, and bearing in mind Hilary M. Lips’s thesis regarding annual salary as an indicator of economic well-being, it’s clearly difficult to assess the wage gap in American publishing as it relates to the wage gap in the United States at large.  

united kingdom.

In the UK, Bookcareers found an average annual wage gap of 15.8%8 within the industry, compared to a national average hourly wage gap of 17.9%.9 Here again, however, the national average wage gap was calculated using hourly earnings as opposed to annual earnings. It bears repeating that these figures do not allow for meaningful comparison, as they are not properly congruent. 


According to Quill & Quire’s 2018 salary survey, which is the only data we currently have that compares men’s and women’s salaries in Canadian publishing, there is a 25.6% average annual gender wage gap in our industry.10 This is actually slightly lower than the national average annual wage gap of 29.6%11 between men and women as reported by Statistics Canada in 2018. The Quill & Quire data, however, is comparatively weak. The salary survey had only 345 respondents, and even from that small sample, not all respondents answered all questions. The Statistics Canada data, on the other hand, is extremely robust—their sample size was almost 15 million. As was discussed in the previous section of this chapter, this data does not allow for true apples-to-apples comparison. Even still, it is worth noting that the Statistics Canada data set had an equal distribution of women and men, while the Quill & Quire survey responses reflected 84.1% women and only 14.8% men. Even keeping in mind the comparative weakness of this data set, for such a small subset of the workforce—less than one-fifth—to outearn the majority of the workforce to such a dramatic extent, suggests a lack of pay equity in the Canadian publishing industry. 

impact of distribution wages on wage statistics.  

In addition to these general statistical issues, looking at the wage gap in publishing is further complicated by the decision of some firms to include or exclude their distribution department from wage calculations. This exclusion is a significant issue in relation to the gender wage gap in publishing because distribution, where the pay tends to be very low, tends to employ significantly more men. As such, the decision whether or not to include this concentration of men working at low wages has the potential to significantly skew the data.

As a point of illustration, in 2018 Hachette released two different sets of wage gap data: one that excluded their distribution centres, and one that did not. When the distribution arm of Hachette was excluded from the data, their average wage gap was 30.4% in favour of men, while the data that included distribution showed an average wage gap of only 17.8%12 in favour of men. This extremely significant discrepancy makes clear the necessity of transparent reporting and standard reporting parameters for publishing wages. 

women over index and under earn in publishing. 

While there are clear gaps in the data, what we do know suggests that there is a significant lack of wage equity in publishing. Recall that in Canadian publishing, the data that we have suggests a 25.6% wage gap in favour of men. While this may actually be lower than the national wage gap of 29.6%,13 it is essential to bear in mind that the publishing workforce in Canada is as much as 84.1% female, while in the general population, women account for only 47.7% of the workforce.14 The fact that women over index and under earn to such a dramatic extent in publishing suggests an issue worth investigating. 

why is the gender wage gap in publishing is so large?

The factors contributing to the gender-based wage gap within organizations in a broad sense are well-documented and are discussed at length in a Statistics Canada study titled “Measuring and Analyzing the Gender Pay Gap” by Dr. Melissa Moyser. Briefly, these factors include expectations related to gender and personality, the “high price” of temporal flexibility (the trade-off of a flexible work schedule for lower pay), and what Moyser calls “motherhood earnings penalties” which includes career interruptions due to childrearing§ and a greater likelihood of working part-time in order to balance domestic responsibilities,15 which harkens back to the problem with comparing hourly or weekly wages between men and women. These are worth mentioning because they are likely as relevant in publishing as in any other industry, however these factors alone do not account for the markedly poor pay equity in publishing. 

a culture of overworking.

There is, however, one factor that has been identified by various scholars that may have specific implications for publishing. According to studies published in the American Economic Review and the American Sociological Review, larger wage gaps are found in professions that place a high value on long work hours.16 According to one study, this effect could account for as much as 10% of the total wage gap in industries where “overworking” (defined as more than 50 hours per week) is prevalent.17 According to Cha and Weeden, industries “where long work hours are especially common and the norm of overwork is deeply embedded in organizational practices and occupational cultures”18 are especially susceptible to this effect. 

Publishing is indeed such an industry. This is a well-documented feature of the trade, from the archetypal editor who reads manuscripts at home in the evenings after returning from a full day in the office, to the importance of after-hours events, which, according to Sue Carter writing for Quill & Quire, “has always been considered a requirement of working in the business.”19 The importance of events and social work spaces was discussed at length in the first chapter of this report. 

According to a 2019 Quill & Quire survey, “heavy workload” was the top workplace stressor, affecting over 78% of respondents. 23% of respondents also cited “long hours” as a significant workplace stressor.20 Taken together, these findings prove what many in the industry know to be true: working extended hours is part and parcel of working in the publishing industry, whether those extended hours take the form of completing work-related tasks at home, or participating in social engagements that are extracurricular but nonetheless expected, or in many cases, required. 

As demonstrated by Cha, Weeden, and others, professional environments where overworking is the norm disproportionately benefit men, who tend to have fewer domestic responsibilities and thus more freedom and energy to consistently work extended hours.21 Due to the typically excessive workloads and the engrained culture of after-hours events, publishing perfectly fits the profile wherein overworking is embedded in the organizational practice and occupational culture—essentially, publishing is exactly the type of industry that is likely to have an outsized gender wage gap as a result of outsized work hours. 

other wage gaps

This discussion of wage gaps is limited to gender, and is unable, because of a lack of data, to meaningfully address other wage gaps that are known to exist, and that affect many women. Conversations about the gender wage gap in publishing are often led by, and thus centered on, white, able-bodied, heterosexual, cis women. This type of advocacy fails to take into account the experience of women whose identities do not neatly map onto this assumed “norm.” As a result, data is not gathered with an intersectional approach, and it is nearly impossible to have informed conversations about other wage gaps that undoubtedly exist and impact many women in publishing. As such, women of colour, disabled women, and LGBTQ+ folks are excluded from wage equity advocacy. For a more in-depth discussion of intersecting forms of discrimination in the publishing world, please see the next chapter of this report. 


Measuring the wage gap in publishing requires the use of quantitative methods. Quantitative data, however, is only useful if it can be compared with other data that is collected and reported in the same way, and if it is clear what the data is including and excluding. Both comparability and transparency are significant problems in terms of the data available for the wage gap in publishing. In order for data to be truly meaningful, firms must report consistently across the industry, and be transparent about what they are including and what they are omitting from their figures. 

With those limitations in mind, however, the data that we do have suggests that there is an outsized wage gap between men and women in publishing. Well-known and well-documented contributors to the wage gap, such as “motherhood earning penalties” are generally industry-agnostic and do not explain the unexpectedly large wage gap in publishing. Rather, the wage gap in publishing may reasonably be attributed to the deeply-engrained culture of overwork, which is manifested in excessive workloads that necessitate extended work hours and the frequency of after-hours events where attendance is expected or mandatory. In these types of work environments, men are more likely to excel due to their lack of domestic obligations compared to their female coworkers, resulting in increased professional returns.


  1. Hilary M. Lips, “The Gender Pay Gap: Concrete Indicator of Women’s Progress Toward Equality,” Analyses of Social Issues and Public Policy 3(1): 87-109, 2003.
  2. Lips, “The Gender Pay Gap”.
  3. Ibid.
  4. Jim Milliot “The PW Publishing Industry Salary Survey, 2018,” Publishers Weekly, November 9, 2018.
  5. Fact Sheet: The Gender Wage Gap: 2017,” Institute for Women’s Policy Research, 1, September 2018.
  6. Jim Milliot, “The PW Publishing Industry Salary Survey, 2019,” Publishers Weekly, November 15, 2019.
  7. U.S. Bureau of Labour Statistics, “Report 1083: Highlights of women’s earnings in 2018,” BLS Reports, November 2019.
  8. Bookcareers, “Salary Survey Results 2017”.
  9. Roger Smith, “Gender pay gap in the UK: 2019,” Office for National Statistics, October 29, 2019.
  10. Quill & Quire, “2018 Salary Survey,” May 2018.
  11. Statistics Canada. Table 11-10-0239-01 Income of individuals by age group, sex and income source, Canada, provinces and selected census metropolitan areas.
  12. Katherine Cowdrey, “Hachette calls on rivals to disclose ‘transparent’ gender pay gap numbers,” The Bookseller, November 30, 2018.
  13. Statistics Canada, Table 11-10-0239-01.
  14. Catalyst, “Women in the Workforce – Canada: Quick Take,” May 28, 2019.
  15. Dr. Melissa Moyser, “Measuring and Analyzing the Gender Pay Gap: A Conceptual and Methodological Overview,” Studies on Gender and Intersecting Identities, Statistics Canada.
  16. Claudia Goldin, “A Grand Gender Convergence: Its Last Chapter,” American Economic Review 104 (4), April 2014. 
  17. Youngjoo Cha and Kim A. Weeden, “Overwork and the Slow Convergence in the Gender Gap in Wages,” American Sociological Review 79, no. 3 (April 8, 2014): pp. 457-484. 
  18. Cha and Weeden, “Slow Convergence in the Gender Gap Wages”.
  19. Ibid.
  20. Sue Carter, “Workplace survey: the results,” Quill & Quire, May 11, 2020.
  21. Dr. Melissa Moyser, “Measuring and Analyzing the Gender Pay Gap”.
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