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Publishing industry is overwhelmingly white and female

28 January 2016

From The Guardian:

A survey of American publishing has found that it is blindingly white and female, with 79% of staff white and 78% women.

Multicultural children’s publisher Lee & Low Books surveyed staff at 34 American publishers, including Penguin Random House and Hachette , as well as eight review journals, to establish a baseline to measure diversity among publishing staff. They found that 79% were white. Of the remainder, Asians/Native Hawaiians/Pacific Islanders made up 7.2% of staff, Hispanics/Latinos/Mexicans 5.5%, and black/African Americans 3.5%.

“Does the lack of diverse books closely correlate to the lack of diverse staff? The percentages, while not exact, are proportional to how the majority of books look nowadays – predominately white. Cultural fit would seem to be relevant here,” writes publisher Jason Low. “Or at least in publishing’s case, what is at work is the tendency – conscious or unconscious – for executives, editors, marketers, sales people and reviewers to work with, develop, and recommend books by and about people who are like them.”

When it came to gender, Lee & Low found that 78% of publishing staff overall were female. At executive or board level, however, 40% of respondents identified as men.

Link to the rest at The Guardian

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52 Comments to “Publishing industry is overwhelmingly white and female”

  1. “When it came to gender, Lee & Low found that 78% of publishing staff overall were female. At executive or board level, however, 40% of respondents identified as men.”


    I suppose this is politically incorrect, but I found the above to be a peculiar use of language.

    The women were defo women, but the men identified as men.

    The world grows more curious with each passing moment 🙂

    brendan (Identifies as Male, Oirisher.)

    • That’s still a minority. I wonder how the distribution is when you take into account POSITION.

      From the posts that have gone through here in the past four years, I’d expect that every single one of the big publishing companies has a male CEO. You know, those guys who got together and colluded over lunch?

      Excuse me. ‘Identifies as’ male.

      • Simon & Schuster

        Carolyn Reidy – CEO
        Lousie Burke – President Gallery imprint
        Judith Curr – President Atria imprint
        Susan Moldow – President Touchstone imprint
        Liz Perl Executive Vice President, Chief Marketing Officer
        Carolyn Connolly Senior Vice President, Human Resources
        Hazel-Ann Mayers Executive Vice President, General Counsel

        Penguin Random with pictures

        • Thank you. Is that the whole corporate structure down to the lowest level included, or are these the positions currently held by women? Percentages?

          Is there somewhere I can look at the corporate hierarchy and who holds these positions currently? I know most publishing companies have a number of imprints.

          I don’t see any Board members in this list. How is the proportion of women on the Board?

          • Alicia, Unfortunately Liz Perle passed away last year with weeks of memorials and prominent commentary at PW and elsewhere.
            She was a force for many authors. The hard hitting women
            at RH/P and others/ were Susan Peterson [head of Penguin for decades and publisher at Ballantine for RH for years, Phyllis Grahm, {not quite sure I spelled that right] a force of Nature, Jane Friedman former vp at Knopf then heading Harper Collins, Carol Reidy, of course, ‘the’ Gina Centrillo who believes no author ought be ‘a star’ under her regime, and another woman whose name escapes me, who also passed away. These are the heavy heavy hitters of past and some in the present. Jane Friedman singlehandedly dragged HC into digital books. When fired by Rupert, probably over the Judith Reagan/Oj Simpson fiasco/criminal act, she opened Open Road and stole midlist and backlist authors left and right. RH recently sued her and won over Julie of the Wolves, a faux “eskimo’ story that has ‘enchanted young readers’ since 1977 or so [it is a fascinating read that back in tehe 70s, the authors agents somehow negotiated a contract that had ONE phrase in it that was eccentric, and the judge 40 years later who decided the case, said that phrase from 77 meant yes, RH had total squatting rights on the book]

            One of the most startling and sad things about the list of women above, is that many have had breast cancer. Some survived. Some did not.

            Could also add a list twice as long of the men in top positions, the very top. There are many many men at the top and in editorial. Some of them vicious. Some incredible minds and hearts.

        • There are quite a few number of women in top positions in publishing. I can’t believe it’s now a problem that the majority of employees are women; you’d think that would be a good thing. At Kensington our General Counsel, and Board member, is a woman. As is our Publisher, one of our Editor-in-Chiefs, Marketing Director, Publicity Director, Sales Director, all four National Account Managers, Creative Director, Digital Books Director…I can go on and on.

          • It’s not an accident that 70% of readers are Caucasian women (not that there’s anything wrong with that) when over 80% of decision makers in publishing are also Caucasian women.

            I wonder what would happen to the book market if 50% of the publishing decision makers were men and 50% were women?

            The same thing is happening in the film industry. When 80-90% of the people who green light films are a certain demographic, guess what percentage of films coming out are also.

            Being indie allows an even playing field for people of all sexes and colors to have a shot at building a readership.

            • Should we expect Caucasian men and women to have the same reading patterns and volume? Why?

              I think it would be a stretch to say Caucasian men don’t have lots of stuff to read. There are zillions of books available to them. Maybe it’s simpler to just accept Caucasian women like to read more than Caucasian men. So what?

              If publishing personnel were 50/50, I doubt anything would change.

              • As it turns out, melanin deficiency has nothing to do with reading habits but carrying two x chromosomes does: women in general read more than men.

                They are also more likely to stop and ask for durections when lost on the roads. 🙂

              • Men used to be most of the readers of romance novels and love stories, and it was wholly acceptable for male Victorians to doubt that female Victorians were really all that romantic at heart.

                Men were still reading the love pulps up until the 1940’s or 1950’s, but these days they are hardly a blip on the meter of romance reading’s demographics.

                So yeah, all genres are not equally popular between the sexes, over time.

                • “Men used to be most of the readers of romance novels and love stories”


                  I’ll certainly cough to that. I’ve been reading and narrating a lot of history for Librovox over the past few years and I have to admit it fries my brain at times just how violent a species we are.

                  I’m getting softer in my old age, although to be true that soft centre has always been there.

                  I’m reading, “Enemy at the Gates,” right now. The real story of the battle of Stalingrad and it is so horrible I can only read it an hour or so at a time and then go back to something soft and mushy.

                  What’s wrong about being nice to people? (shiver.)


        • BTW as of April 2014 article, Jeff Bezos has 12 men reporting to him, no women….and only 15% of the senior management are women. Also almost all of the officers and members of the Board are male.

          • interesting

          • I believe I read there’s 1 or more now, but I’m not shocked. Amazon is more of a tech startup than anything else. And here in Canada and the US we have failed in getting young girls into math and science.

            A quick search found another Guardian(so might be dubious, lol) article on it:

            After reading so many articles I’ve kind of come to the conclusion Amazon isn’t exactly a retailer and likely hasn’t been for a long while. Amazon is more like a limited wish fulfilment center powered by tech magic.

            That sounds(okay is) corny but they crunch data to find and deliver anything you wish as fast as possible. And they also find things you might wish for soon. And things you don’t know you wished for, but here it is. “You wanted it right?”, “yeah!”, “we knew”.

            Someone like PRH could do something similar, instead of Author solutions, but it would take a lot of change.

            • Amazon is an American Keiretsu.
              Or a conglomerate, like GE.
              They use the profits from one mature and stable business to fund investment in newer ones that may or not be related.

              Amazon used the money made selling pbooks and CDs and DVDs to fund the infrastructure for full-range dry goods sales, which in turn funded their cloud services business which is now funding their movie studio, their TV streaming “network”, and their push into robotics.

              Amazon is a Venture Capital firm in disguise.

          • This is not an interesting data point at all, because as Wayne said, Amazon is primarily a tech company. What would be more apples-to-apples is comparing who their top editors are at their publishing houses: More balanced, more women, or more men?

            • Or how they compard to Google, Apple, Facebook, and especially Seattle-based Microsoft.

              (Hint: very little difference.)

              • However, none of those companies are also publishers. I don’t know the senior management structure of the Amazon Publishing program. Actually I don’t know how senior an executive would be in the publishing program in relation to the other businesses that Amazon runs themselves.

  2. I’ve grown sick of the skin color, race tagging.

    Sonny Mehta head of Knopf and practically entire empire of Eu pub for Penguinie Random, is a sikh and an East Indian. I frankly dont give a s that he is also dark skinned and from an ancient Indo race that grows black as a black sun when exposed to the sunlight.

    The Russian Jews in publishing, of which there are many are not ‘white.’ In fact no one I know is “white.” White is not a heritage, a race or an ethicity. It is slop that passes for actual discernment/ thinking. Many of the Jews are Middle Eastern heritage; many mixed with Asian Siberian heritages which are definitely not “white.” That many have darker skin than say Scandanavians, who the h cares? Seriously??

    There are entire stacks of writers published who are black, asian, middle eastern, irish, native american, spanish hertiage, etc and more etc. Hoards. And there are many british americans, polish americans, estonian americans, armenian and romanian american [one of my favorite Andrei Codrescue] and many many other african american, japanese american, chinese american, vietnamese american, irish american and more more more writers… and editors. Not to mention authors who are not from North America, but from Canada, Eur. Africa, Aus, South and Central Am, etc.

    Since when is where your ancestors come from who usually struggled like h so we could be here, relevant to what any org is made of.

    Wouldnt one mean ATTITUDE, rather than the sickeningly stupid and lowminded discussion about ‘race’ and heritage, and who is White, who is Brown, Who is Black. Surely they have noticed that people who are Native American, so-called Hispanic, African American come in all colors from palest hue to darkest and all in between. Surely they have noticed that some of any know NOTHING about their own histories on earth over the eons and some know much, and especially that NO group is monolithic.

    And besides they left out half our family heritage when they were listing their absurdist ‘groups’, Native American. What, in such lists we’re chopped elk sausage, or however they say that?

    If we are all lining up to what? list our grievances? then every single group listed above and more have long long sad sad histories of being invaded, raped, slaughtered, enslaved? It seems to some this equality of being raped and murdered matters not. What then is the basis for ‘worse than yours?” To me it is completely false notion. Have compassion for all, give opportunity to as many as within your power. Choose blind, not by heritage, quota, impugned one-color thinking. Choose ok, what is good business. Introduce new ideas. Whet appetites. Give people a chance. Many.

    But. PUblishing business is not ground zero for racial equality marches. Given what I’ve seen in publishing, including over 2 decades ago, when RH started an imprint to address ‘underpublished’ authors who came from [code word] ‘diverse’ backgrounds. It was supposed to be a strong imprint that would publish world-wide underserved content by many many different kinds of authors. It turned into, by virtue of its editors, being a place that published only a certain kind of author– only those who belonged to their own racial group.

    Limiting utterly the broad and deeper reach. And being drenched in what many saw as angry favoritism toward a narrow range of authors. It’s not the first time we saw this bewildering proclivity of some human beings strongly identified rightly or wrongly with their own ‘minorityness,’ to give only to their own.

    yet, rather than race, ethnicity or heritage, just my .02, I think the idea of favoritism that is far far too chummy-bummy for lonely editors who have nolife except for coat=tailing their authors and bragging on their authors [happens often by eds who have little or no verve and intention elsewhere] is far more confrontable than what ‘white’ people who are nonexistant ghosts think or do.

    Just my .,02

  3. Anyone who lives in NYC and knows people in publishing is aware it is like a sorority. In my experience, most went the same colleges, and are the same religion, too.

    I think all this similarity is unfortunate, because editors naturally buy books that that enjoy and find interesting. Many viewpoints are not represented at all by editors, and I think some of the truisms you hear (like boys don’t read) are self-fulfilling prophecies because, for example, editors aren’t buying books that appeal to boys.

    • “Many viewpoints are not represented at all by editors, and I think some of the truisms you hear (like boys don’t read) are self-fulfilling prophecies because, for example, editors aren’t buying books that appeal to boys.”

      Which all boils down to: More for us that don’t have/follow their viewpoints!

      • “(like boys don’t read)”


        I’ll admit I was a bit peculiar as a child. I could read at age 3.

        I was so sick of reading the stuff that adults droned on at me, the brothers grimm, et al. I hated Hansel and Gretel, it gave me nightmares.

        So, I read War and Peace at age 6. I loved it. It was a bit of a struggle, but I adored the characters.

        I WAS Bagration! 🙂


        • I was stealing Leslie’s line, but what it means to me is those of us not catering to trad-pub’s ideas of what will and won’t be liked/read means all those boys (and girls) will be coming to the indie/self-publishers for what they want — and once they see what we have for them they’ll see no reason to look at trad-pub (both as readers and some of them as writers if they ever get the urge.)

          Trad-pub is actually training the future writers to go indie/self. (which is also why ASI and other vanity press try to pass themselves off as ‘self-pub help’ …)

          • This why indies are so important to the future of literature, rather than being the death knell. Like it or not, the world is changing. People of all ethnic backgrounds (I dislike defining humanity as different races), sexual/gender orientations, political views, and religious affiliations or lack thereof are a growing voice in everyday life.

            It is to our benefit to encourage new writers of all types to publish works that don’t fit the WASP elite. It enhances all parts of life when people are not marginalized or ignored outright.

            Call me a S** if one likes. I prefer to consider myself a lover of all humanity.

        • Brendan, you are my reading hero!

    • Yep. This is painfully true in several fields that appeal to male readerships, like military science fiction, which are being steadily dominated by indy or hybrid writers.

      None of this mattered when there was no competition, of course (except for a few outliers like Baen). But the times, they are a’changing.

  4. #PublishersSoWhite&Female

  5. What’s interesting is that I’ve seen a number of blogs and articles about female authors not getting published. So why if women make up 60% of management and 78% of lower level editors and others are they presumed to have a dislike of buying female authors?

    Obviously the reasons are a lot more complex than some of the articles we’ve seen reposted here over the last couple years have suggested.

    • They buy what they think will sell.

      • And yet the majority of readers are women and they also buy the majority of things like books for their kids.

        I’m not trying to pretend to be clueless, I’ve just never actually seen a study laying out various reasons why things are the way they are. Mostly we get studies like above of ‘xyz % versus zyx %’.

        • Correlation is easy to frame.
          Causation is hard to prove.

          Populists love correlation but hate causation.

        • Some moms are very good at figuring out what their sons will like, and at helping them grow.

          Some moms… not so much.

          Of course, this is also true for mothers of girls.

          And that’s why it helps to have both moms and dads involved in buying books for kids. At least you broaden your search pattern.

  6. Oh, Wayne, I could write you a novel about how women are to each other in hierarchies. I’ve worked for both male and female bosses, and IMO the guys are easier to work for. With women, in my experience there was always this “I got here so that means less space for you” mentality. As though the work life were a zero sum game and anything I achieved meant the other women got less.

    I recall after I got my master’s degree, I went to Human Resources for an interview with the director, at my request, to talk career path. I told her I thought the hospital should get some payback because their tuition reimbursement program had helped me attend grad school. She sat back in her chair and asked me, “What, aren’t you happy doing clerical work?”

    I wanted to say, “No–wouldn’t you be happier interviewing potential workers and filtering through resumes, rather than running your department?”

    I wonder if female editors feel turf-protective enough to have a bias against publishing books by female authors. My suspicion is that if they do, they will not admit to it.

    • Maybe, but it seems a bit hard to believe though that women will sabotage women in a different career stream just for turf. I have seen stuff about women crushing women underneath them so they don’t pass them though, but guys do that too.

      I mention above I’m a bit clueless because most of these reports and studies mention results not serious attempts to study why.

      – Do women publishers buy male authors because that’s what they read growing up?
      – As readers do they mainly read men because they subconsciously view them as ‘authorities’? I’ve vaguely remember seeing studies that even women tend to ignore female experts in favor of male experts
      – ????

      I’ve no clue what the answer might be but I mentioned in another post a month or two back that women control the majority of money spent on reading in households. And now we see they control the majority at the other end. There has to be deep reasons (likely many small ones) that keep present traditional publishing as they are.

      • Wayne, I suspect it has a lot to do with the mindset behind trad publishing. It’s been run by WASPs for the most part, and the American culture especially has placed white men above everyone else in society.

        I think they still feel the market mainly caters to while males, and the leadership of the publishing houses can’t understand that things have changed and other people buy books. Women in higher positions likely have to toe this line, even if they’d rather push the boundaries.

        And I’d much rather work for and with men, rather than other women. By far the worse job experiences I’ve had have been when in a traditionally female job, and/or working for women.

        I think a lot of that is still dredged in the old world where it was so hard for women to advance that any other woman rising was a threat to the uniqueness of a woman in a higher position. There was only room for a few females in management (quotas!), and another woman gaining power and influence was a threat.

        I had great hopes that this would go away as even more women rose in the hierarchies, but sadly it seems it has not.

        • I think they still feel the market mainly caters to while males, and the leadership of the publishing houses can’t understand that things have changed and other people buy books.

          Somebody screwed up. If 70% of readers are Caucasian women, they have stumbled on the magic formula for attracting Caucasian women by catering to Caucasian men..

    • Coincidentally, I just stumbled on this article about possible scientific reasons for the behavior you describe (and I’ve experienced, too).


      As with most things, it’s not true that all women are poor mentors more interested in kicking the ladder down after they ascend, but it happens often enough in my experience that the idea that there is an evolutionary explanation has intuitive appeal.

  7. As a refugee from Krypton, I too feel under-represented.

    In all seriousness, I admit to being a bit surprised at the make up of the upper echelon of those publishers.

    I have only anecdotal evidence to go on, but it seems to me that most agents are women as well.

    Does anyone have an idea of whether or not that’s true? A curiosity more than anything, but it interests me in relation to the type of books we see published and how far back int he pipeline they might be selected by a certain preference.

    • @ ed

      English Lit majors from the Seven Sisters? Traipsing down to Manhattan and connecting with the “Sorority” Network?

      • Also in magazine publishing, an industry I was part of in the 80s and 90s.

        Most fun day at New Woman magazine was trying to explain a lottery pool to every editor except the Production Editor who, like me, was a working stiff who did not attend a Seven Sisters university. They honestly had no clue.

        But I did get the top editor to contribute a few bucks. Once she understood what it was, she decided it would be fun.

  8. Well. These numbers need positions attached to them, even though they did surprise me.

    Where I work, the majority of my colleagues are women, by quite a margin. But the department heads are 90% men. Top level, for the first time ever in 350 years (my institution just celebrated that anniversary) more women than men, but the two men are in the leading positions, while the three women are the second tier (vice-presidents, as they are called).

    So, as with all statistics, one has to look closely in order to make reliable statements.

  9. I suppose it’s gauche sp. to mention that many a charming good looking /good cologne man has been published for second/third etc time, practically on those creds alone. Same for young fine looking women. It IS an edge not for acquisition but continuance, whether eds/execs/others want to admit it or not. Thereis a voracious wanna be with the pretty people [and more] amongst a raft of female and male eds and execs in pub. Something about maybe how ‘exciting’ it is to be near ‘talent.’ Dont know>

    The i dont give a s about appearance, belly overflowing beltline, gnawed fingernailed, uncivil/ill mannered writer better be a certified genius celebrity, otherwise…

    As I’ve said before, if writers could actually hear the contempt or rage to possess certain authors … everyone would be an indie

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