Yesterday I found out that I have been shortlisted for the Pandora Award (together with Justine Solomons of Byte the Book and Alison Jones who, after many years in academic publishing, has a publishing consultancy).
The prize is awarded tonight. Wish me luck!
The award is made by Women in Publishing, and has been presented both to individuals and to organisations since 1981. Previous winners have included Ursula Mackenzie (2015), Gail Rebuck (2014), Carole Blake (2013), Marjorie Scardino (2012), Suzanne Collier (2011), WILDE Network (2010), Mslexia (2009), Zed Books (2008), Judy Piatkus (2005), Persephone Books (2002), Honno (2001), Fay Weldon (1997), the Feminist Library(1995), Margaret Busby (1993), Ros de Lanerolle (1992) and the late lamented Silver Moon Bookshop (1989).
At a long-awaited point in the industry’s evolution when we are all concerned with diversity in our workplaces and in the books that we are publishing, it is important, I think, not to lose sight of gender diversity and equality in the industry too. This has been debated for all the years I’ve been in publishing, and Women in Publishing is a long-standing example of an organisation that champions the women who make and sell books.
I don’t want to bang a dreary drum about this, but I believe that there isn’t enough recognition of the value of women in publishing and in bookselling. Ursula, Gail and Marjorie were all succeeded by men, and none of the big corporate publishers is run by a woman. I am saddened by the exodus of women from publishing during their child-bearing years. There have been articles about the failure of the industry to accommodate women’s frequent (though not by any means universal) preference for more flexible working conditions. And I wrote this blog post over a year earlier, several years ago, quoting Victoria Barnsley, a big hitter who has also left the industry.
As the managing director of an independent publisher, I feel truly liberated from any limitations anyone else might impose on me because of my gender. I can’t help but notice that, this year, the three women up for the Pandora Award are all women who have, at this stage in their career, made themselves independent, and now work only for themselves. Maybe that’s just a co-incidence. Maybe it’s a wake-up call for the employers in the industry.