The New Statesman and Virago have teamed up to launch a new literary prize for women writing about economics or politics in order to address the “under-representation” of female writers in those fields.
The Virago New Statesman Women’s Prize for Politics & Economics will give a début woman writer a contract for an essay to be published as a Virago e-book, followed by an option to contract for a full-length book.
Writers should submit a 3,000-word proposal in the first instance, which will be judged by Financial Times journalist Gillian Tett; deputy editor of The New Statesman Helen Lewis; Lennie Goodings, publisher at Virago; and Tom Gatti, culture editor at The New Statesman.
Gatti said the magazine was inspired to launch the prize because “women have long been under-represented in certain areas of non-fiction publishing and journalism”, pointing to the fact that there was just one female writer on this year’s 12-strong Samuel Johnson Prize longlist.
“But blaming individual publishers, awards judges or editors is not the answer: a wider cultural change is needed,” Gatti said. “We need to identify, encourage and promote talented female writers, and The New Statesman is delighted to be partnering with Virago on a prize that we hope will do just that.”
Goodings agreed that “the non-fiction literary pages and prizes are still dominated by men and most particularly in the fields of politics and economics”. However, she added: “That’s changing, but not as fast as we at Virago would like. So we are excited to be working alongside the New Statesman—a longstanding home for provocative political journalism—to create a new annual award.”
Entries should consist of an outline of 1,000 words and a sample extract of 2,000 words. They must be submitted by 31st January 2016, and the winner will be revealed in April 2016. The winner will then be asked to develop the proposal into a 20,000-word essay for publication.
The under-representation of women writers in publishing prompted novelist Kamila Shamsie in June to advocate a dedicated year of publishing women in 2018, the 100th anniversary of women getting the vote in the UK.