I’ve worked in media all my life and have always felt encouraged by seeing so many other women in senior roles and positions of power. In the creative industries, as in so many other sectors, we are unquestionably edging closer to the glass ceiling, determined to smash through it upon arrival. But we’re not there yet – the gender gap within the creative sector is well documented.
The International Labour Organisation found that, in 2020, the arts, entertainment or recreation industries had an average of 31 per cent of women in executive management positions, dropping to 29 per cent for senior management roles. And in a world where increasingly all forms of creativity demand online connectivity – whether you’re making music or designing a logo or writing a book – 250 million fewer women than men use the internet, according to a 2021 UNESCO report – a global digital divide works to our cumulative disadvantage.
Publishing, however, is different – at least on the surface. Women make up 64 per cent of the workforce, holding over half of the executive leadership and senior management positions. While many industries may structurally fail to support female creativity, publishing is the mirror image – so much so that some commentators are arguing that the scales need to be rebalanced.
In my view, there are other imbalances that need rectifying much more urgently, with many publishers setting up diversity initiatives aimed at attracting and retaining a greater racial and socioeconomic diversity of talent.
Fiction does seem to be experiencing a flurry of female-led authors, but that’s not the case across all genres of writing. Looking at The Week’s ‘Ten best business books of 2021’, only two are written by women, one of which is co-authored by a man. Any snapshot of Amazon bestsellers in the business category will show a similar demographic. As a female business leader myself, this is frustrating and symptomatic of a broader gender disparity in the business world. But with more inspirational female leaders turning to self-publishing, it may be possible to boost those figures in the business category – which is one of many reasons why I’d encourage every motivated woman to start taking notes and working on a first draft.
Wider barriers in business
When looking at representation in corporate offices, it’s not difficult to see why fewer women author business books. In FTSE 100 companies, only 39 per cent of boardroom roles are held by women – although this is dramatically higher than the 12.5 per cent it stood at a decade ago. Globally and across all sectors, including the creative industries, women represented just 27 per cent of all manager positions in 2021, according to the World Economic Forum.
And of course, external factors tend to have an outsize impact on women’s to successfully navigate the world of business – such as parenthood. A study from 2019 found that just 28 per cent of women were in full-time or self-employed work three years after childbirth, while the employment rate for men was 90 per …….