Recently a piece of news reached me through the Ace of Spades HQ blog and it made me chuckle. It seems a Cleveland Ohio book store decided to highlight all the books by female authors (that they were aware of) by turning the books by men backward. See, that way you can't see their titles or author, just pages.
They did it for a few weeks for "Women's History Month" according to the article at the Cleveland Scene, as a way of "silencing the male voice." One publishing house raved:
This articulates the display’s effect admirably in terms of speaking and silence, but the visual effect—a clear picture of the gender disparity in the canon—is what’s stunning.
But are there so few female authors out there? Are women in disparity in publishing and literature?
As a published author with 8 books under my keyboard, I've got some experience in the publishing and literature business. I have self-published them all, for a variety of reasons I've gone into elsewhere. There was a time when I tried very hard to pitch my book to agents. My theory was, self publish the first one and establish that I have readers and the ability to do it, and use that as a springboard into what at the time I thought was the "mainstream."
I noticed something while pouring through the lists of thousands of literary agents. There was a consistent theme, a repeated fact that stood out very noticeably after a short time.
Literary agents are mostly women. By a fairly large margin. In fact, it became surprising to find a man who was an agent. After a while it was kind of an amusing game, picking through the list like looking for a four leaf clover. This is a pretty well established and known fact, one examined in this Quora article.
I was going to question whether there really are, since in general people tend to seriously overestimate the percentage of women in any mixed group, but then I checked the AAR membership list and saw that 37 of the first 50 names are indeed female.
The author claims this is some cruel trick by the publishing business to keep women down because of the "glass ceiling" of course. But if you examine publishing, you find the same phenomenon in place. Most editors and people who work at publishing houses are also women. That article about the bookstore above? No men work at the shop. In fact, women's voices are very well represented in publishing overall.
Publisher's Weekly ran an article about this phenomenon entitled Where The Boys Are Not. They said comfortably that everybody knows that women dominate publishing:
It’s no secret that lots of women work in publishing. But just how many more women work in publishing than men? In PW’s recent Salary Survey (Aug. 2) one statistic stuck out: 85% of publishing employees with less than three years of experience are women.