This report was a two-year undertaking completed in August 2021 as a final component of the Master of Publishing program at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, BC. The full report can be accessed in the SFU Summit research repository. A PDF of the report can also be downloaded here.
The book publishing ecosystem is rich and varied, and relies on many interconnected professions to work smoothly, including many that I was unable to consider in my research. For the sake of clarity and scope, I had to decide how I was going to define the book publishing industry for the purposes of my report. As such, I focused on the departments that are traditionally part of a book publishing house—editorial, marketing, sales, and design. Other professions which are undoubtedly important, such as authors, book reviewers, and book sellers, were excluded from my research.
According to Nordicity’s July 2018 Canadian English-Language Book Publishing Industry report, our industry is comprised of 70% women. Given the slow progress that North American society has made towards gender equity over the past century, this statistic piqued my interest. Counter to what you might expect, gender inequity tends to be a problem in industries where women over-index, such as . This often shows up in a gender wage gap, as well as what you might call a gender power or prestige gap—that is, women tend to cluster in the lower ranks of the industries where the pay is lower, and they are often doing jobs that afford less power and traditionally garner less respect. In the case of health care, this means that women are often working as nurses or care aides as opposed to doctors or surgeons. In education, there are many more women teaching at the elementary level than at the university level. The same pattern is true for racialized people.
Through the course of my research, I found that not only do men working in publishing tend to make significantly more money than women, and not only are men way more likely to hold executive positions in the industry than women, but also that there is an entrenched culture of sexual harassment in the industry. I also found that the industry is constitutionally biased towards white, cis, straight, middle-to-upper class people.
To put it simply, it is unacceptable for an industry where so many women work to be such a hostile place for women. What’s more, for an industry that has so much cultural influence to function in a way that does not support diversity—in fact, that has systemic discrimination baked into its very core—is also not acceptable. Our industry has the potential to pave the way in gender equity, to hold space for important conversations, and to bring people together, but we are falling short. We can and must do better.
I hope that my work is a stepping stone in this journey.
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