Is the future female?
17.06.11 | Tom Tivnan
The other day I went to visit a major London publisher. As I walked through the open plan offices, I saw perhaps 50 to 60 people and my low estimate would be that there were 75% women there. This is not an anomaly. Visit any publisher, go to any book launch and the majority of book trade folk there will be women.
This goes some way to explaining why women make up two-thirds—26 of 39 entries—in The Bookseller's Rising Stars, our inaugural listing of the next generation of the British book trade. We did not have a feminist agenda in setting up our list. It was just that women happened to be the majority of candidates at the level we were looking at—the second, third and fourth jobbers; the commissioning editors on the rise; the booksellers who are surviving and thriving in the digital era.
The gender balance of the Rising Stars contrasts greatly with that of our Bookseller 100, our annual listing of the top brass in the book trade. Our last 100 in 2010 had just 29 women in the top jobs. As with the Rising Stars, we did not have an agenda with the 100, we simply judged on merit from the candidates available—that 30% female/70% men probably reflects the gender split in the boardroom and m.d. level as the 66% female/34% male more or less accurately reflects the middle level.
The glass ceiling was shattered long ago in the book trade, and the UK in particular does better than most comparative industries, with some very powerful women at the very top. Pearson's Majorie Scardino, after all, is the head of the world's biggest publisher, and there's Random's Gail Rebuck, HC's Victoria Barnsley and Macmillan's Annette Thomas at the c.e.o. level, plus is a slew of heads of houses/m.d.s including Jane Morpeth, Louise Moore, Susan Sandon, Rebecca Smart and Belinda Budge.
There are, of course, larger societal issues here that have to be taken account about the gender divide at the top. The effect of raising families hampers women's careers more than men's, and that may continue even with liberalised paternity leave laws.
The question is, in 10 to 20 years' time will we have some sort of gender parity in the top of the book trade? Will our female Rising Stars become the c.e.o.s of tomorrow, or will the top jobs continue to be given out disproportionately to men?