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  • Writer's pictureThe Publishing Post

PublisHer: Advocating For Recognition of Women’s Impact in the Industry

By Alice Fusai, Natalie Klinkenberg, Frankie Harnett and Chloë Marshall


In recent years, women have been dominating the literary world with the likes of Sally Rooney, Megan Nolan and Raven Leilani conquering the UK fiction market. In the United States, women publish more than 50% of books with female authors selling more books than the average male author. But what about the women behind the scenes in leadership positions at publishing houses? While women do make up the majority of employees in publishing houses, most of their roles are low-level positions, earning less than their male counterparts. 

Bodour Al Qasimi discovered she was often the only woman in the room during meetings with the Arab Publishers Association after founding the Emirates Publishers Association. With so many women working in the publishing industry worldwide, Al Qasimi felt that women were underrepresented in leadership roles within the industry. Changing the course of this situation became one of her missions, thus PublisHer came to life. At PublisHer’s first summit, Al Qasimi stated that the organisation aims to “rewrite the rules of the game” by providing support to develop balanced and fair environments within the industry.

PublisHer is a “call to action,” as stated on their website. Led by female leaders and focused on turning the tide of the gender imbalance on an international scale in publishing and other creative industries, PublisHer summits and events cover topics such as the lack of career progression at executive levels, limited access to female mentors and overall resources for women to learn about opportunities within the industry. By hosting events, consultations and mentorship sessions at literary events across the globe, PublisHer is spearheading progress by bringing to light the diversity and inclusivity challenges that women face in publishing, providing the tools needed to help create a more diverse workspace.

PublisHer has worked with several different partners to provide the best advocacy for female publishing. Notable partnerships include Sharjah Book Authority, AirArabia and Ingram at promotional events like the London Book Fair, The Bologna Children’s Book Festival and the Manilla International Book Fair. Working in these partnerships allows the organisation to attend events and produce initiatives and prizes such as the PublisHer Excellence Awards to celebrate female achievements in the industry and promote diversity and career development. Bodour Al Qasimi, the former president of the International Publishers Association who announced this year's awards at the London Book Fair, describing the shortlisted candidates as having mastered “the skill to navigate calm water, the courage to confront storms, the resilience to sail against the tide and the wisdom to believe in herself despite uncertainty and myriad challenges.”

One such award is the Lifetime Achievement Award, which recognises women with at least twenty years of experience who have made a tremendous and long-lasting impact on the industry. The runners-up for this year included Akosua Ofori-Mensah who founded Sub-Saharan Publishers and Ana Maria Cabanellas, the CEO of Grup Clarid. This year’s winner was Shirley Yvonne Carby for her long-term role as the Chairperson of Carlong Publishers Caribbean Limited. The other awards are the Emerging Leader Award, won by Mitia Osman for her amazing achievement as CEO, Publisher and Executive Director of Agamee Prakashani, which she founded at age twenty-five, and the Innovation Award that was won by Anne Friebel for her industry changing approach with Paloma Publishing as the Founder and Publishing Director.

Now in its fifth year of operation, PublisHer returns to Bologna’s Children Book Festival with a program of highly informative and energetic panels curated to drive conversations on issues facing women working in the publishing industry. This year, visitors had the possibility to meet and chat about their work or ambitions at their coffee and networking event. This is an excellent example of an event that helps diminish the distance between the publishing professionals and the publishing hopeful, in a sector where connections can indeed make a difference. The importance of collaboration was also highlighted in the first of three fair panels. The star of their events was however the inaugural PublisHer Excellence Awards, as mentioned above.

They’ve certainly been making the rounds, appearing this year at several major book fairs and conferences; kicking the year off at the New Delhi Book Fair, followed by the London Book Fair and Bologna Children’s Book Fair. Their presence at these important international events helps not only with their own visibility, but also serves as a platform for consultations on the margins of such events, by which they remain up to date about the problems women face in the industry. They have been able to pinpoint key issues from such sessions, which are listed here on their website. 

Ultimately, despite the dominance of female authors in the trade fiction market, the lack of women in leadership positions at major publishing houses proves that there’s still a long way to go. It's a common oversight; although women are visibly present and contribute significantly to the industry, the proportion of those in positions capable of effecting change reflects neither the value of their work, nor the demographic representation compared to male counterparts. By providing platforms for mentorship, advocacy, and resource sharing, PublisHer empowers women to navigate the complex terrain of the industry and to ascend to leadership positions with confidence. PublisHer's strategic partnerships with esteemed organisations further amplify its reach, enabling it to push for diversity and inclusivity on a global scale. Advocating for gender parity isn’t just about acknowledging women’s contributions, but celebrating them as inspiring, meaningful and actionable change throughout the publishing industry. 



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