The Women’s National Book Association continues with its mission to champion the role of women in the world of books and to focus on the critical issues facing them in today’s publishing environment. Via our programming, networking events and publications, for almost 100 years, the WNBA has worked to promote equality for women in all aspects of their lives.
The WNBA-NYC April 21st panel on DIVERSITY AND PAY EQUITY IN PUBLISHING: The Importance of Industry Surveys and Activism at Penguin Random House, was a continuation of that work and made for a fascinating evening of discussion and sharing ideas. Developing the conversation on issues of diversity and pay equity is crucial for today’s world, especially in the publishing industry, which employs numerous women and publishes books and articles for large, diverse audiences. This panel, which included five strong and influential voices within the literary world, discussed the importance of analyzing and documenting the make-up of the workforce, the importance of balanced and equal representation in book reviews, as well as the critical need for books to be written by diverse authors with a plurality of narratives to help promote literacy and social justice. The panelists, Amy King of VIDA, Jamia Wilson of Women, Action & the Media, Jim Millot of Publishers Weekly, Preeti Chhibber Senior Editorial Manager for the Teens & BookBeat Scholastic Reading Clubs and the CBC Diversity Committee, and Sona Charaipotra, co-founder of CAKE Literary and VP of content for We Need Diverse Books shared stories of their work and activism, the progress that has been made and what still needs to be done. The moderator, Immediate WNBA-NYC Past-President and WNBA National President, Jane Kinney-Denning opened the discussion by asking “What the panelists suggest that people (and women in particular) do to fight for diversity and equal pay in the workforce?”
“The best way to effect change is to change the conversation” said, Preeti Chhibber, Senior Editorial Manager for the Teens & BookBeat Scholastic Reading Clubs, who makes sure that diversity is in every aspect of every layer she does for Scholastic. She talks about it, writes about it and makes sure it influences all of her decision-making.
In a recent article “You will be tokenized: Speaking out about the state of Diversity in Publishing” author Molly McArdle stated:
“Publishing doesn’t exist in a bubble. Systemic and individual racism, misogyny, trans- and homophobia, albleism: these structure and surface in every American workplace. But publishing’s deadening sameness is unusual, and it makes for an unhealthy book culture. Of the 3,500 children’s books reviewed by the Cooperative for Children’s Book Center in 2014, only 400 were about indigenous peoples and people of color. Only 292 were written by an indigenous person or person of color. For every one indigenous writer or writer of color, there were 12 white writers.”
She goes on to say that “This is the sort of staggering that make you laugh-cry, or angry-cry, or angry-laugh. It is too big for just one emotion. It is also unfair. Inequitable. Immoral. Bad business. Choose the reason that suits you … they all work.”
Amy King who serves on the executive board for VIDA: Women in Literary Arts says a few years ago VIDA took a sampling from 12 major publications and counted bylines to figure out how women faired in the industry. This count is now called the VIDA Count. The Women of Color Count was also added but VIDA soon realized that they should not be the ones assigning color to the writers and authors so they started a survey that not only had a place for women to put their ethnicity but their disability and sexuality. King says, “The point of the counts is to pinpoint how writers are perceived and received. The gender count is a thorny one because some women don’t identify as just one thing.”
Jim Milliot is the editorial director at Publisher’s Weekly who has been doing a salary survey for more than 15 years. “We did notice that the 2015 salary survey skewed younger than from years past,” said Milliot who had theory that some upper management baby boomers may be retiring.
If that’s true, then that’s a good reason to go to your boss and ask for a raise! And the panelists agree. Chhibber’s advice is to walk into your boss’ office, ask for what you want then quietly sit back and wait for the answer. “We need to teach women that they can speak up about what they want and what they deserve in the workplace.”
“According to a report from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, the national gender wage gap won’t close until 2058—that’s 43 MORE years of making less than a man for the same work even though The Equal Pay Act was signed into law in 1963.”
Jamia Wilson, a leading feminist voice and the Vice President of Programs at The Women’s Media Center where they use social media to affect change for women’s issues, diversity, and the wage gap stated that “diversity is no longer invisible and that no matter our skin color we should stand up and speak out about adding more diversity to everything.”
Sona Charaipotra is the Vice President of Content for the non-profit organization We Need Diverse Books. We Need Diverse Books was started 2 years ago in response to a BookExpo America book lineup that consisted of 31 white authors and one cat. Sona told how, using twitter, a group of authors got together and used the power of social media to showcase the lack of diversity of the panel.
“Women in the U.S. still make 79 cents on the dollar compared to men. And that amount gets smaller for African-American (63 cents) and Latino women (54 cents).“
Other discussions focused on the term “diversity” itself, some feeling that it referred to a concept decorative rather than fundamental and suggested using “Equity” instead which many feel offers a more exacting definition. Do you agree? The topic of “pay transparency” in the workplace and what that would do for equity in the workplace was also discussed.
The evening brought into focus many of the pressing issues facing the publishing industry today and left all of us thinking about what each of us can do to help promote equity in the industry we all love so much.