In a workforce 74% women, with the Our Genderation panel we wanted to address the fight women and LGBTQIA+ are still fighting in the industry for equal pay and representation and the changes needed to make it more inclusive. Chaired by Amalia Mihailescu, we heard from Julie Gourinchas, Eris Young and Mireille Harper to address these questions.
To begin, the panel was asked, how well is the industry doing to cater for and include various voices. Julie began by pointing out the prevalence of free speech to justify gender critical thinking which in turn creates harmful rhetoric is entrenched in traditional publishing, and the continued support for these ventures will never create a space which feels inclusive. Eris echoed this and pointed out that while the industry may be trying, the business model itself and true equality are perhaps fundamentally incompatible. Mireille mentioned the hierarchy at a publishing house and while voices are now being published who previously weren’t being heard, at the top of the chain, the shareholders and bodies at the top of publishing are often funding hateful government rhetoric. Following on from this, Julie notices a tendency in the industry that once in the industry, people pull the ladder up behind up and there is gatekeeping which keeps trans voices excluded from the industry. The application process, while Eris notes that this is now making attempts to be more inclusive, there is a lack of transparency about what publishers do with the data provided when they screen candidates and whether it is actually being used.
The panellists were asked for positive changes that they have seen within their own careers, Mireille notes how gender pay gap reporting and ethnicity pay gap reporting wasn’t common practise when they entered the industry but is now standard. Importantly outlined, Mireille notes how these initiatives often benefit white, middle-class cis women above people with other identities. Following on from this, Eris noted how the approach lack intersectionality, with it focusing on exclusive identities and denying nuances. Julie has noticed personally being vocal online has positively impacted her career, with her insistency on calling out the harm she sees, being a reason she got her current role.
Amalia went on to ask how they felt the pandemic had impacted gender equality. Julie points out that while publishers have all reported record sales, this has not had a knock-on effect in terms of wages increasing which they believe has led to mass burnout. Relevantly, Mireille expands this further to discuss the return to the office and the cost-of-living crisis with implications that both office and homeworkers are going to cost more. As lower earners tend to be women and trans folk, it is likely they will be disproportionally affected by this.
Going forward, Julie believes we need to follow the money, both in terms of wage transparency in job applications but also when talking about the advances authors receive. Eris also points that diversity and inclusion needs to be genuine, noting how the market has been identified recently but as a group with money rendering it tokenistic. Mireille points out that it is not just about creating space for underrepresented groups, it is about actively investing in them so they succeed in these spaces.
Thank you to our chair and all our panellists for appearing on Our Genderation panel, the recording will be available to view online until 31st May to all ticketholders.