Mind the gap

<p><a href="http://www.thebookseller.com/news/85616-survey-publishing-pay-stagnates.... results of the new Bookcareers.com publishing salary survey were not very surprising</a>: compared to people with equal qualifications working in other industries, people who work in publishing are woefully underpaid. Anyone who manages to get a foot in the door of a publishing house or literary agency soon realises much of the satisfaction in the job will have to come from their enjoyment of playing a role in the production of books, rather than the figure on their monthly pay-cheque.<br />
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But what is striking, however, is that in an industry that is so dominated by women &ndash; the survey puts the sex divide at 83/17 &ndash; men who work in publishing are still out-earning women by fifteen per cent. Some might remark that the fact that the pay gap is far less severe than the national average is a good sign. But that kind of view is unacceptably complacent: the ongoing existence of this gap is appalling, and I believe that in part it speaks to the fact that in many companies, the over-valuing of old-fashioned ways of working continues to permit discrimination against young women.<br />
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A central part of the problem is a basic fact of how entry-level publishing jobs work: regardless of the department they&rsquo;re in, they tend to involve a great deal of administration that young, bright, university-educated people are not trained to do. It&rsquo;s not a matter of being too grand or ambitious to muck in &ndash; it&rsquo;s a matter of new graduates being profoundly ill-equipped to work as PAs, and rarely being offered substantive training to help them to learn how to do it properly. So publishers go on hiring very smart people to do jobs that they are not going to be good at.<br />
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Anecdotal evidence (and the salary survey) suggests, however, that men are more swiftly promoted out of these roles than women. Many in the industry seem to accept that bright young men do not want to be secretaries, and are therefore quite forgiving of incompetence at typing and filing if it is tempered by wit and big ideas and passion for books. In contrast, managers &ndash; some, perhaps, still hoping to find a Girl Friday - tend to be much harder on women whose secretarial skills are lacking, regarding it as evidence of overall unsuitability for work in publishing. <br />
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To be sure: significant discrimination against women endures in all kinds of workplaces, but of my male and female friends and acquaintances working across a range of industries in London (and, indeed, in New York), it is the women who work (or have worked) in publishing who consistently tell the most hair-raising stories of Devil Wears Prada-style bullying by managers, of regular sobbing in office toilet cubicles, of being told that it would, perhaps, be better if they were male.</p>
<p>Of course, there are a lot of brilliant, inspiring experienced women working in publishing who are amazing role models and mentors for younger women. But there are also quite a few who were treated badly by managers themselves when they were starting out, and are therefore inclined to feel that it is reasonable to haze their own female employees. And it&rsquo;s the fear of crossing influential people in this small industry that prevents women from standing up for themselves, protesting against unacceptable working conditions, or asking for better pay.</p>
<p>With publishers scrambling to find models for how to modernise their products to keep up with technology, it&rsquo;s time as well for them to give more thought to modernising the way they manage their human resources. Old-fashioned hierarchies may seem to keep things ticking over, but some of these structures and systems may be limiting the opportunities for women to bring creative thinking and ideas to the table &ndash; which, in the long run, is what is going to make the world of books swim rather than sink.</p>