Last year, to celebrate the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day, a group of friends and I listened to several prominent writers and editors talk about the gender gap in the Western publishing industries at a Readings bookshop in Melbourne. We’re all aspiring authors and the evening was a sobering look into an industry that seems to sideline books by women writers, both in the small number of reviews they receive compared to their male counterparts, as well as prizes. The event was informed by a survey by VIDA (an organisation representing women in the literary arts) published earlier that year, which found that ‘prestigious international literary journals reviewed far more books by men than by women, and used far more male reviewers than female reviewers’.
None of this, sadly, is new. In 1971, Margaret Atwood took part in a survey at York University, where she discovered that
most books in this society are written by men, and so are most reviews
… likewise women reviewers tended to be reviewing books by women rather than books by men.
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