Gender Inequality in Publishing

One thing that always gets me is why exactly do women want to receive the same pay as men? I’m not talking about the same pay for the same work; I’m talking about the very clear fact that women are now demanding that over the length of their ‘careers’ they want to receive the same amount of money.

But why would they need to? The only reason is if they plan on being independent their whole lives, never having children and making sure that if there is ever a divorce (which, statistically, there will be) they will have a job to keep them going. If you are in a relationship, the normal approach should be to have only one partner work full-time. In addition, if all relationships have two people working full-time that means, inevitably, that prices go up (as they have over the last few decades). There seems no logical reason why a woman should get as much money as a man over their lifetime. In particular the cry for ‘equal pay’ seems most noticeable in publishing.

Publishing is predominantly female-driven. Anywhere from 70-80% of employees are female, and yet most of the top-level jobs are given to men. CEOs, head of sales and head of finance are still run by men! There are many legitimate reasons why this would be the case (hint: you have to accept that men and women have different strengths and weaknesses) but the argument never seems to go away. Take this recent article from the Guardian:

‘Why’d he get promoted? Because he has a dick’: sexism in publishing survey reveals widespread frustration

Forgetting the overtly sexist headline, let’s dive into the meat of the argument.

Jenny, who works in corporate publishing, said: “The new hire in my company – who is on exactly the same level and job description as me – was offered £8,000 more than me as his starting salary.” While admitting that she felt her male colleague had more experience, she described the pay differential as “insulting”.

What does this show? That women are, as we know, inherently emotional. The facts say that the male colleague is more experienced, but emotionally she feels hard done by, and that is all that matters.

Penny, who works in editorial at a non-managerial level for a “massive company”, recounted the situation of two junior colleagues, one male and one female in the same role, both of whom had no previous experience. “The man was given a pay rise to ‘recognise’ his work on a specific project,” she said. “He revealed this at the Christmas party to another colleague. Of course word spread, and it became apparent from this that the women, who had all worked equally well (and in some cases better) on other projects, received no pay rise.”

Aside from the fact that this stupid man should have kept his mouth shut, this is nothing more than hearsay and a subjective opinion, completely inadmissible in a court of law.

Adele, who has worked in publishing for more than a decade and now holds a senior editorial role, said: “There’s a perception that women are fine for creative and arty jobs but aren’t as business-minded as men so less suitable for upper management.”

Is there any evidence to support the claim that this perception is wrong? This statement completely begs the question and leaves an assumed answer in the reader’s head.

The belief that pregnancy was a career killer was widely held. Naomi, who holds a managerial role in the editorial department of one of the “Big Five” corporate publishers, said the discrimination was often subtle. For instance, she said that when commissioning editors returned from maternity leave to work part-time, they were expected to commission fewer books, but their sales targets remained the same. Others reported seeing colleagues being demoted while on maternity leave.

The experience might be different in Australia to the UK, but downunder I’ve seen nothing but support for female employees who have children. Conversely, I have heard unappreciative remarks from women, asking why the full 12 month period of leave (you get 6 weeks paid maternity leave, plus however much unpaid) doesn’t count to long service leave. Um, sweetie, it’s because you aren’t working. Having children is an admirable decision, but don’t be surprised if, because you aren’t there, promotions don’t come your way and you don’t get extra leave because you’re ‘loyal’. If anything, there is a constant undercurrent of resentment and entitlement among the women I work with.

Not a single woman I know has had to accept a lesser role, and indeed they get to work either one day from home or just a straight four-day week. Another anecdotal story is the woman who fell pregnant for the second time who decided to quit. One of the assistants said that she would continue to blog about books, as if raising children was not a noble enough undertaking and she had to do something with her time as mundane as blogging (yes, I am perfectly self-aware in this moment). Of course, this is also one of the many assistants who out-rightly say they do not want children. But despite this mentality, there is nothing but making room for women who decide to have a family.

Many women felt frustrated at their lack of promotion because it effectively excludes them from decision-making roles – a point acknowledged by Ian, one of the few men to respond to the survey. “In my experience, I’m usually commissioned by a man, I’m briefed by a man, I report to a man, the tech guy is a man, but the person that sorts out all the HR stuff is a woman,” he said.

I’ve worked and interned at four different publishers. Two had female CEOs, all were majority female, and most of the managerial roles in publicity, publishing, design and marketing at all four publishers were headed by women. You have to ask yourself: is this really a patriarchal dominance, or is this just how the cards lie? Sure, the CEO is in ‘charge’ but that just means he has the responsibility of guiding the company as a whole, and cops shit when it goes wrong. The actual decision makers – what gets published and how – end up being overwhelmingly women.

I really can’t take articles like this as anything other than propaganda. Apparently the sexism is ‘widespread’, but in a survey of only 92 people, 67% felt they were treated differently, and this was not sorted for bias. A final anecdote: I literally got my first job because my female boss was sick of female assistants. The last two she’d had had been useless. Thank the Lord for discrimination.

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