Gender Inequality in Publishing: Women Marginalized, While Men Take the Lead

The 9th Annual Ethics & Publishing Conference at the George Washington University in Washington, D.C. centered on sexism and gender inequality in publishing, and the importance of understanding the impact of gender bias in both conscious and unconscious forms. A pronounced example of unconscious sexism/gender bias emerged in the process of putting the conference, itself, together— which had been comprised of an all-White panel of male speakers.

In the opening introduction, a faculty member at GWU (and international publishing consultant) said that in putting the panel together, he and his team completely overlooked the fact that women were absent from their chosen list of speakers. He decided to leverage this blunder as an opportunity to highlight the inherent sexism in the industry. The speakers at the 2016 conference, now all women (none were women of color), discussed the publishing world’s predominantly White and female make up, but emphasized that when it comes to leadership roles, men generally hold positions of authority.

According to the Publisher’s Weekly Publishing Industry Salary Survey, 2016, “72% of men reported that they earned $70,000 or more compared to only 41% of women,” largely due to management positions; generally the highest paying roles in publishing, being held primarily by men.

The female presence in publishing is concentrated in lower paying roles—84 percent of women in publishing work in editorial and 73 percent in sales and marketing. According to the same survey, 88 percent of women in the publishing industry are White, with only 2 percent of workers identifying as African American, 4 percent as Asian American or mixed race, and 4 percent as Hispanic. Past surveys have shown, such as the 2014 salary survey published in PW highlighting a $15,000 wage gap between the sexes, that men still dominate leadership in this field.

It’s important to note that sexism also exerts an influence on writers. For instance, Tramp Press, an Irish publisher, asked a group of writers to reveal which authors and literary influences were present in their work— only 22 percent listed female writers. Women of color and LGBTQ professionals have even more challenges in navigating the publishing industry. In “The Most Intersectional VIDA Count Yet Paints a Troubling Picture: Looking Beyond Gender Inequity in Literary Media Makes for a Disturbing View,” published in The Huffington Post, author Claire Fallon wrote, “Women from marginalized groups continue to be wildly underrepresented in most major literary publications.” Fallon’s article was written in response to a 2015 VIDA count that revealed rampant sexism and racism in the publishing world.

However, progress is still being made, as highlights from the count indicate:

Of the 26 publications in our 2015 Larger Literary Landscape VIDA Count, 15 of them published as many bylines by women writers as men, or more! We are celebrating A Public Space (72%), The Normal School (69%), Crab Orchard Review (64%), Jubilat (59%), Ninth Letter (59%), Cincinnati Review (58%), N+1 (57%), Conjunctions (56%), Gettysburg Review (55%), Kenyon Review (55%), Prairie Schooner (54%), Colorado Review (53%), Missouri Review (52%), Pleiades (50%), and Harvard Review (50%).



In 2015, nine publications are closing in on gender parity, with bylines by women writers representing 40 to 49 percent of the pie: Copper Nickel (49%), Callaloo (48%), Fence (48%), The Believer (47%), New American Writing (46%), McSweeney’s (45%), Virginia Quarterly Review (45%), AGNI (43%), and Southwest Review (40%).

Source: Excerpt from 2015 VIDA count, listed on

Written by Rebecca Nichloson

The Long Tail Theory: Niche Audiences, Mass Marketing, and the Power of Choice

In Should You Invest in the Long Tail? Anita Elberse’s approach to The Long Tail Theory asserts that, though revenue-generating niche markets have grown, consumer purchase of niche entertainment products hasn’t replaced blockbusters or bestsellers. Elberse criticizes Anderson’s theory by offering information gleaned from extensive examination and analysis of U.S music and film sales data, which demonstrates that the theory may not be a fail proof strategy for marketing, branding, or distribution practices. Content abundance gives consumers more choices and, perhaps, inspires interest in non-mainstream products; this doesn’t necessarily lead to an increase in sales. At best, niche entertainment products can lead to additional sales when sold with blockbusters, but these sales shouldn’t be expected to replace blockbusters.

Elberse also states that, “from 2000 to 2005 the number of titles in the top 10% of weekly sales dropped by more than 50%—an increase in concentration that is common in winner-take-all markets. The importance of individual best sellers is not diminishing over time. It is growing.”

Anderson’s “Ben analogy,” where he emphasizes key differences between today’s generation and past ones, is also beneficial to any discussion about what competitive advantage might mean in the 21st century. To be competitive in the digital age is to build marketing, brand, and product delivery strategies that take into account the tremendous increase in autonomy that consumers have and value; particularly teens and millennials. Although Elberse’s article identifies logistical problems in Anderson’s concept and its application, the core idea of the theory is still valuable and relevant for adapting business strategies to changing markets and consumer needs.

Niche products may never replace blockbusters and big hits, but the Long Tail theory  still provides a useful framework for thinking about competitive advantage and the intersection between big hits and niche products. The central question for any organization that wants to remain competitive should be: How can niche products help generate additional sales for blockbusters? How can blockbusters generate more sales for niche products? The answer to maintaining competitive advantage is eclecticism, an understanding that no one strategy is sufficient for meeting the needs of a market that has become increasingly fragmented.

Niche audiences have, largely, been an invisible market for most businesses, including the publishing industry. If publishing companies implement business practices that increase the number of choices consumers have—eBooks, print products, and Internet content that includes bestsellers and niche products—they will thrive and remain competitive, even as the publishing industry changes. Competitive advantage will shape the publishing landscape of the future by demonstrating how necessary it is for publishing to adapt to consumer demand for choice, and the need to develop strategies that most effectively meet this need.

Moreover, staying competitive means that publishing companies should develop and implement multimedia objectives that are measurable or verifiable; achievable and feasible; flexible and adaptable; and congruent, as a means of evaluating the effectiveness of branding, marketing, and customer service quality. In adapting business practices to the principles of the digital age, these companies will need to create a substantial balance between operational and abstract thinking, as well as lofty and practical goals, while assessing strategy through evaluation of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.



Blair Underwood to Give 2015 Commencement Address at AmericanInterContinental University: Actor Talks Education and Giving Back

Reporting by Rebecca Nichloson. Written for

Actor, Blair Underwood, has long been a staple in black cinema, television and the arts. In addition to maintaining a successful career that spans 30 years, the two-time Golden Globe nominee, who made his film acting debut in Michael Schultz’s Krush Grove (1985), is a Carnegie Mellon University graduate and has won the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Image Award an astounding seven times.

Moreover, he’s the supporter of an array of nonprofit initiatives and co-founded  Artists for a New South Africa (ANSA), which has raised and granted upwards of $9 million dollars for African nonprofits. He’s also worked with organizations such as the Muscular Dystrophy Association and the AIDS Healthcare Foundation.

On Saturday, August 8, Blair Underwood will give the commencement addressat AmericanInterContinental University (AIU) in Chicago, offering words of wisdom to the 2015 graduating class. He was invited to speak at the commencement because of his numerous achievements. Underwood will share his insights on the correlation between career success and education, in addition to encouraging these future leaders as they embark on a new chapter in their lives.

“This past year has marked such exciting changes in my own career, and there is no better feeling than knowing all of your dedication and hard work is paying off,” Underwood said. “As AIU students take to the stage for their commencement ceremony, I hope to inspire them to seize the moment and recognize their accomplishment of this important milestone, while looking forward to even greater success in the future.”

“Graduation at AIU is a celebration of each student’s personal accomplishments, recognizing their completion of academic programs that will prepare them for future success at a pivotal point in their lives,”  said President of AIU, Dr. George Miller. “Blair Underwood’s own accomplishments and journey to success will undoubtedly inspire students to pursue their dreams as they move forward to their next chapter.” caught up with Blair Underwood to discuss his motivation for being the AIU commencement speaker, what message he hopes to impart to his audience of 2015 grads, and what inspires him to give back to the community. What inspired you to be the AIU commencement speaker this year?

Underwood: Well, they invited me first of all.  It was an honor to be accepted. Actually, these last couple of years I’ve been seriously considering getting an online degree.  So I’ve been personally researching different schools, different avenues to do that. I was impressed with AIU—what they do, what they stand for, what they represent—and then they invited me to give the commencement address.

What do you hope to communicate to the class of 2015?

I hope to encourage them. I hope to inspire them … Everybody’s path is different and unique, in terms of what they will conspire to do and what path they will take. But, after all that,  it’s [about] belief in self, finding your strength and understanding your weaknesses. It’s about networking, it’s about reaching out.  It’s about faith. It’s about potential. What I’ve found in my life, the most difficult part sometimes, is just believing yourself.

Having studied drama at Carnegie Mellon University, how did education influence your artistic and career development?

In one sense, people in my particular field don’t necessarily want to know, or need to know, that you have a college degree. But, with that being said, for me it was important to get the training—to get a specific conservatory training—because it gives you a foundation. And more than that, it sets you apart.  Another basic tenet of life is: People’s perspectives have a lot to do with your ability to succeed sometimes. … You’re qualified and you’re talented—that can be one truth. But somebody’s perspective of your abilities is another. So when you have that college degree—in my case Carnegie Mellon, a very respected university—it opens doors.

What motivated you to co-found Artists for a New South Africa (ANSA)? Why should more people give back?

‘To whom much is given, much is required.” I’ve been given a great deal. I worked my butt off, but I’ve been given a great deal. So, therefore, I believe in giving back when you can and being of service … The definition of true success is finding your passion, your particular passion … The flip side of that is giving to others; being of service to others. I wholeheartedly believe that.