I was looking into the gender pay gap, chiefly in writing as a career, and I was pleasantly surprised.
Keep in mind that writing can include journalism, copywriting and marketing, book writing, technical writing, and the list goes on…
Drawing on general statistics from governing bodies and research biometrics we can conclude that writing does not suffer the gender pay gap as much as other pursuits. In general the figures show female writers are looking at 97-99 percent of a male counterpart’s wage. Though more media focused professions tend to see a larger gap, close to 80%. A prime example of this is in 2017 when Lisa Wilkinson abruptly departed her position as host of Channel Nine’s Today Show after almost a decade when the network refused to match her pay demands to that equaling her male co-host Karl Stefanovic. Read more here: https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/datablog/2017/oct/18/australia-gender-pay-gap-why-do-women-still-earn-less-than-men
Though, when doing research for this article I was gobsmacked at how much of a gender pay gap still exists on a global stage across all sectors of employment today. I could get very emotional about the injustice of it all and go on a rant, but I’m focusing on the facts I’ve gleaned within the writing community because it directly affects me. Publishing seems to be a much more accommodating environment for female careers. But if you want some interesting general facts about the gender pay gap check out this article: https://www.aauw.org/2019/04/02/8-surprising-facts-about-the-gender-pay-gap/
For general take home pay across all industries, I have found typically there is less of a margin of difference for differing sexes wages here in Australia compared to other countries. And it also seems skewed towards industries that are dominated by men, run or managed by men. Like favors like it seems. In industries dominated by female staff we see more of a balance, except in the retail sector where women typically earn more than men for the same job.
For contrast, I canvased over fifty writers that I know who have published 2 or more books in Britain, America, and Australia with an equal representation of genders to get a view if there was a gender pay gap in authors. Covering traditionally published fiction, Non-fiction, and differing genres. There were some interesting findings – but this may not represent the community at large because of the sample size, opportunity, how much independent effort the author undertook to boost sales – there are so many factors that can influence the results, but it’s a nice litmus test into my favoured profession.
Technical writers in non-fiction favor men over women (but I have a feeling this was due to professional qualifications and time in the industry. But that could also mean that men were favoured over women for opportunity and career advancement. It’s such a microcosm of a niche it was hard to get a handle on what the landscape was like.”
Women dominated YA and romance fiction and tended to not only get higher signing bonuses, but produced more novels per year on average, thus being seen as a better investment for publishing houses.
Men skewed higher than women in thriller, adventure, and horror genres. This has to do a lot with famous authors like Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Michael Crichton, and Clive Cussler to name a few, paving inroads and publishing houses wanting to emulate their success.
Science Fiction and contemporary novels came up and even odds. As did historical fiction.
Though when you look as historical non-fiction male authors dominated the field and drew in much larger signing bonuses and sales figures (you know what they say – history was written by old white guys.)
There is an increasing trend in feminist literature that is seeing some great in roads to a completely female dominated genre with great rewards.
Memoirs and Autobiographies were interesting to look at. Ten years ago it was mostly dominated with male writers pocketing huge bonuses, but it seems to be swinging to a more female dominated market. Though they are not getting the kind of bonuses the men saw in the past, but that has more to do with economics and the industry that it does gender and opportunity.
Children and middle grade books were also dominated with women and their income was actually higher than those offered to their male counterparts.
I think overall the trend I see is in more serious and factual based writing we see men getting the professional notoriety and opportunity – and that also being reflected in their offers and income streams. Whereas women dominate in the creative, touchy-feeling genres, or genres reaching into childhood and female literature.
The industry is also still going through even more change with profiles like Ursula LeGuin and J.K. Rowling getting accolades for their body of work and many contemporary female authors having their novels optioned for film and television, we are seeing the gender pay gap getting mostly obliterated, and more opportunities being afforded to women. As to opportunity for people of colour and those who don’t conform to gender norms, to those of a variety or sexualities. It’s great to see such diversity and equal opportunity spreading throughout the industry – and have that reflected in the amount we get paid for our craft.
I wish I could discuss specifics and figures, but a key part of getting information for this article was keeping personal financial information private. Fair enough. I’m just greatful for the opportunity.
There was also a skew in the results with certain publishing houses. Some were more generous in their signing bonuses than others. But in some of the cases where I was privy to a lot of information, I can see everyone was judged on their own individual merit and what they could bring to the table in the arrangement. So while the overall figures still show the men being offered larger signing bonuses in certain categories and as the bigger earners overall, there was a balance for writers across the board. I think the industry will balance out even more in the near future as we see staffing changes and old attitudes pushed out of the industry.
The take home summary of my research shows that even though the gender pay gap in writing and publishing is one of the smallest in comparison to other industries, there is still a lot of work and attention needed to bring it to an even, open opportunity landscape. It’s great that we can even have these types of discussions. I know if this topic was brought up when I first started writing I would have been tsk-tsked out of the room. For me personally when I applied for jobs, or put in a submission for work, my worth would also include my appearance. If I was too attractive, I couldn’t also be intelligent. If my qualifications exceeded those of the interviewer, I was seen as a threat. Such a delicate rope we walk in the social-political climate. But with more ‘woke’ attitudes, more exposure and open discussions on equality, and deconstructing discrimination we are seeing a more accepting, global movement for equality. And that gives me hope for the future… and for my writing career.
What have been your experiences in the gender pay gap? Do you know of any writing-centric experiences or statistics that can add to this topic? I’m interested to build a better snapshot of opportunity and remuneration afforded women writers.
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