Thursday, February 19, 2009

Girls against boys

This is the third of a sequence of questions from the same person. I'm separating it because it's not related to the other questions, and also because it needs a separate entry. Also because it may take a while to answer the other two questions ...

I hope this isn't insulting, but -- do you have any thoughts about how many women there are at the top of the publishing industry? Does it affect what gets published? Why aren't there more men involved? I don't mean that their shouldn't be women involved -- but the mix of men and women seems unusual. Is there a reason for it, and do you think it matters?

The simple answer to all these questions is: money. The salaries in many publishing jobs are low - editorial assistants are on below-poverty level (seriously), editors and publicists earn under the national average, and most publishers don't earn nearly as much as most people think. So there are more women than men in the publisher, editor and publicist roles but more men than women in the sales, marketing and executive roles. No surprises there - those jobs pay better.

The perception of gender imbalance arises because most authors deal with the publisher/editor/publicist sector of the company and never meet people from the other departments. In truth, most acquisitions meetings are probably almost evenly matched, with a skew towards more women in some companies and more men in others.

I used to think that there weren't more Alistair Maclean-type novels being published because there weren't enough men making publishing decisions. Now I just think it's because hardly anyone is writing those sorts of novels. 'Entertainment' doesn't seem to be a motivation for many writers. Where are the new Frederick Forsyths, the Judith Krantzes, the Wilbur Smiths? If we could find some of those, they'd (probably, hopefully) get published. But they don't come through my submissions pile. Was that a massive digression? Probably. But I just felt like making the point.


Jolie said...

So are you saying that women are more willing than men to take low-paying publishing jobs, or that women are more likely to get hired for those jobs because the CEOs are saving the high salaries for the boys?

Nom de Gare said...

I wonder about this too. It's one of those chicken, egg, which came first kind of questions: are publishing salaries low BECAUSE they're filled by women (ie, are publishing companies paying their staff badly because they're female?), or are these jobs filled by women because men don't apply for such low-paying jobs?
I'd really love to hear a man's perspective on this. It'd shed some light on other industries too, I think - teaching, for one. Is it a conscious decision? Do some men consider going into publishing, but decide against it when they realise how little they'll be earning?
I do think the fact that most editors are women (and polite, quietly spoken young women at that ) helps to keep salaries lower than they might be. There's not a lot of money in publishing anyway - salaries are never going to be huge - but we could be a lot better at knowing our own value and asking for more.
Great post!

Tui said...

Very old post, but oh well -

It'd shed some light on other industries too, I think - teaching, for one.

Teaching (especially at secondary school level) is the case study for this kind of thing because it's a profession that has shifted from being a mostly masculine profession to a mostly feminine one - and as it did so, both the prestige and the pay for the job dropped (relative to others: I can't say for sure but I imagine teachers' salaries merely stayed static and increased more slowly relative to inflation, rather than active pay cuts for women.) We pay women less because they're women: because women's work is undervalued, and because we think that women are bound to be supported by a male partner. (Sometimes that's also a reason a woman can take a lower-paying job, but IMO it's a terrible and dangerous position to be in.)