A collective voice for literature and languages in Scotland

Ready to ROAR: Group calls out gender inequalities within the Scottish Literary sector

ROAR (Represent, Object, Advocate, Rewrite) has launched a new website, sharing first research findings that show that gender inequality in the Scottish literary sector is structural and persistent.

The group, which was formed in 2016, is working to combat inequality in Scottish writing and publishing. With members from Scottish PEN, Creative Scotland, Scottish Book Trust, Waterstones, Glasgow Women’s Library and more, ROAR represents voices from within the literary sector.

ROAR reveals new findings by doctoral researcher, Christina Neuwirth: Women of Words: Gender equality in contemporary writing and publishing in Scotland. The research is funded by Arts and Humanities Research Council and Scottish Graduate School for Arts and Humanities.

In 2018, Scotland celebrated Muriel Spark’s work in what would have been the year of her 100thbirthday, and the new Scottish £5 note sports female writer Nan Shepherd’s portrait. However, this analysis indicates that more needs to be done to achieve equality in the visibility and value assigned to women in Scottish literature.

The research, covering the period January to December 2017, found that only 37% of authors whose books were published in Scotland were women (14.5% lower than the general population).

The genre in which women fared the worst was non-fiction about Scotland: only 4 women were published in 2017, compared to 30 men.

In the thriller, mystery and crime genre, double the number of men were published compared to women, and for the humour and sports books category, no women were published at all.

There were only three genres where women were more represented than men: literary narrative non-fiction, where 9 women were published compared to 1 man; and romance fiction, with 11 women authors and 3 male authors.

In Scotland, children’s literature and historical fiction were the most balanced genres, with 40 women and 37 men being published in children’s books, and 5 men and 5 women published in historical fiction.

Scottish media coverage of literature was also analysed by the study and revealed that in 2017, national newspapers The Herald and The Scotsman published reviews of 604 authors’ books: 65% of authors reviewed were men, and 35% were women.

The disparity was even greater in the number of reviews: 86% of reviews were written by men, and 14% by women. Of all reviews, 59% were reviews of male authors’ books, written by male reviewers.

In direct contrast, 7% of all book reviews that year were women’s books reviewed by women.

Book festivals in Scotland fared better and were found to be more representative of gender compared to publication or media coverage.

In 2017, Aye Write, Bloody Scotland and Edinburgh International Book Festival hosted events with 1,392 authors, and 44% of all authors appearing at these festivals were women.

Of these, 461 were solo author events, in which the representation of women writers dropped to 38%.

Book festivals were the only area of the sector in which non-binary authors were represented in 2017, making up 0.4% of all programmed authors.

Research is still ongoing, and ROAR aims to publish an account of gender equality in Scottish literary culture every year, as a starting point for effecting change. More information can be found at www.roar.scot

 Jenny Kumar, Communications Officer, Literature Alliance Scotland, said:

“This important research demonstrates unequivocally that we collectively have a long way to go to level the gender playing field, and that as a sector we need to work together and take responsibility to contribute towards positive change in all that we do, every day.

“For LAS and our members that means driving for better representation and inclusivity at all levels across all our activities to better reflect the society we live in. It means listening and learning and recognising that stereotypes around gender in writing and publishing need to be challenged and that it starts with us and our work. It means paying attention to the way we work and building opportunities and programmes that are open and inclusive. It means that we need to roll our sleeves up.”

 

Professor Claire Squires, Professor in Publishing Studies, University of Stirling, said:

“The ongoing research underpinning ROAR’s investigations into our lived experience of inequalities in the literature and publishing sector are revealing. In particular, women are disadvantaged in terms of book reviewing, and in terms of the proportions of Scottish non-fiction books. This gender discrimination must be addressed in order to make the sector – and the country – a fairer, more representative, and more democratic space. ”

 

Notes to Editors

1) 454 authors were published in Scotland during the period January to December 2017.

2) In the thriller, mystery and crime genre, 30 men and 14 women were published in 2017 in Scotland.

3) 8 humour books by men were published and 10 sports books by men were published in 2017 in Scotland.

4) The Scottish Census 2011 captured information about male and female respondents, with 48.5% of the population being men and 51.5% being women. A survey conducted by the Equality and Human Rights Commission indicates that 0.4% of the UK population identify in a way that is not male or female (Glen and Hurrell 2012, 5).

5) Author events at three book festivals in Scotland (Edinburgh International Book Festival, Aye Write, Bloody Scotland (2017)) featured 1,392 authors: 775 authors were men, 612 women, and 5 were non-binary. Of all solo events featuring 461 authors, 285 were men, 175 women, and 1 was non-binary.

Source: research conducted by Christina Neuwirth, PhD candidate at the University of Stirling, University of Glasgow, Scottish Book Trust. 2019.

 

ROAR working group:

Nyla Ahmad (Scottish Book Trust)

Caitrin Armstrong (Scottish Book Trust)

Jenni Calder (Scottish PEN)

Angie Crawford (Waterstones)

Mairi Kidd (Creative Scotland)

Wendy Kirk (Glasgow Women’s Library)

Jenny Kumar (Literature Alliance Scotland)

Katy Lockwood-Holmes (Floris Books)

Lesley McDowell (critic, editor, writer)

Judy Moir (literary agent)

Sophie Moxon (Edinburgh International Book Festival)

Christina Neuwirth (University of Stirling, University of Glasgow, Scottish Book Trust)

Jenny Niven (Edinburgh International Culture Summit Foundation)

Mairi Oliver (Lighthouse Bookshop)

Jess Orr (Glasgow Women’s Library)

Adele Patrick (Glasgow Women’s Library)

Elizabeth Reeder (the University of Glasgow, Scottish PEN)

Shari Sabeti (University of Edinburgh)

Claire Squires (University of Stirling)

 

Women of Words: Gender equality in contemporary writing and publishing in Scotland

More information can be found here: https://www.publishing.stir.ac.uk/christina-neuwirth-phd-in-publishing-studies/

 

Press coverage:

Publishing Perspectives

The Bookseller

BookBrunch 

The National

ActuaLitté les univers du livre

July 25, 2019