Saturday, February 8, 2014
On Gender in professions and…everything
The funny thing is, the universe delivers. Every, single, time. We publish here on a set schedule. My schedule is every-other Saturday. I have reminders built into my phone so I don't forget that I'm on the hook for a topic. I start reminding myself the Wednesday before. These reminders serve a second purpose than just "don't mess up and miss your week, Karen!" They say "pay attention. Listen."
And this week, the topics that started to just stream across my feed late this week were all about one thing: Gender in professions. Mostly writing, but some other stuff, too.
You may know that all of us Prosers are women. We all have writer friends who are not women, too, but this group happens to be a group of awesome, wonderful writers, great people, honest and trustworthy friends, who happen to carry two X chromosomes.
Many/most of us write in the YA or Middle-Grade age ranges. We are far from alone. Yet we are poorly represented in many of the markers of "success" in the publishing world. Presence on panels at conventions and workshops. Number of reviews in major publications.
It kind of makes me throw up in my mouth a little bit.
Part of the reason it makes me throw up in my mouth a little bit? I come from a background in Technology. This is FAR from new for me. And honestly, perhaps naively, when I made the career shift to focus on my writing in lieu of technology consulting, I thought that finally I was putting the bias and the poor representation aside.
I've been to countless book signings. Universally (with one sci-fi notable exception: Orson Scott Card, where the audience was balanced) the audience is about 75-90% female. I take my son to signings for his favorite authors all the time in part to do my little bit to up the male presence in the room, and to show these authors that there are boys who really enjoy their work, too. Plus it serves to normalize things for him. I actually didn't realize how under-represented my gender was in my technology work until I was quite a few years into my field, since at home my mom was the main nerd/computer user who showed me the Apple II Plus ropes and got me my first typing tutor program on the IBM PC-AT (thank you mom! A big part of my success as a writer is due to the fact that I can type lightening-fast, almost fast enough to keep up with the imaginary movie that plays in my head when I write. I know lack of speed in typing hampers some authors.)
Point is: the audience for books tilts quite heavily female. We should all be encouraging our boy children to read and enjoy the love of a new book and meeting his favorite authors and reading a series all the way to the end and re-reading favorite books over and over and all that sort of thing! We should be doing our part to change this. But still, the audiences are heavily female.
I couldn't quickly put my hands on stats that estimate percentage of authors who are male versus female, but I'd guess the figure is kind of close and/or leans more heavily female.
Why then are we only sitting in one chair of six (in spite of the wigs, 5/6 panelists are male) at events of any size or prominence? Not to single out this one event, it's just one event, but it illustrates an overall issue.
Apparently we, the writing community and those who talk about writing, spend last year talking about these gender discrepancies. I was a little preoccupied in 2013, so forgive me for joining the party a little elate, but in the meantime, apparently THIS YEAR is the YEAR OF WOMEN IN WRITING. Hear that?
So my challenge to you is this: Do you know the gender of the author of the last few works you've read? It's great if you're not paying attention, but because we're so out of balance in representation in reviews and panels and other public-facing literary events, I ask you to pay attention for a little while. When you're trying to decide which book to read and are waffling between two where one is written by a woman, one by a man, please just for this year - pick the woman first. Just for this year, try to consciously seek out a new female writer to try. (you know here at The Prosers Blog we have a few for you to choose from!)
If you're a female writer, put yourself out there! Submit to speak on panels, ask your publisher to send you to events. Indies, volunteer to host book sessions at the library, local coffee shop, local literary festival. Here's one opportunity for women only in Ohio. Help do your part to increase representation by just being there.
And then go further - don't just read the books - write a review on Amazon or Goodreads! Put up a star rating for the book (unless you really kind of hated it. You could skip that review/rating, particularly if it's one of my books, lol!) Talk to your friends about the books you liked that were written by women. Post the link to your review on Facebook. Mention it in your blogs.
Go forth and tell the world about all the great women writers out there just waiting to be discovered! We and our daughters AND sons thank you!