Women Aren’t Winning, Yet

It’s no secret that women are often paid less and given less promotions in the workplace. We also see these inequalities spill over into other parts of our lives as well, often popping up in places we least expect it or haven’t previously noticed before. Nicola Griffith, a talented novelist, recently posted on her blog about how these inequalities are also present in the literary circle. She talks about her findings after analyzing data from the last 15 years on literary awards such as the Pulitzer Prize, Man Book Prize, National Book Award, National Book Critics’ Circle Award, Hugo Award, and the Newbery Medal in her post entitled “Books About Women Don’t Win Big Awards: Some Data.”

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What I found particularly interesting is that this study is not just about women authors, but it is also considers books about women. Here are a few of the concerning numbers revealed in her study:

-For the Pulitzer Prize “women wrote [0] out of 15- prize-winning books wholly from the point of view of a women or girl.”

-For the Newbery Medal “women wrote wholly from girls’ perspective 5 times – and men wrote so 3 times.” Bringing to light the fact that even “girls” tend to outshine “women” as a prestigious literary subject.

Nicola goes on to make a very astute conclusion, “It’s hard to escape the conclusion that, when it comes to literary prizes, the more prestigious, influential and financially remunerative the award, the less likely the winner is to write about grown women. Either this means that woman writes are self-censoring, or those who judge literary worthiness find woman frightening, distasteful, or boring.”

To me, it’s unfortunate and difficult to understand why in 2015 women (both as authors and as subjects) are not winning major literary awards. I took a look at the most prestigious award in the audiobook industry, Audiobook of the Year, given by the Audio Publishing Association over the past 10 years. First I looked for women used as content, only one winner in the past 10 years was a book written by and about a woman- Bossypants by Tina Fey in 2012. I then looked for women as narrators and again, only one in the past 10 years was a female narrator- Tina Fey in 2012.

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Clearly there is a pattern here and I think it’s important that we are aware of it. Maybe there’s a reason, maybe it’s some strange coincidence, but it’s something that we can’t ignore and needs to be talked about. We need to continue to do the one thing we can do- continue to write and to continue to write about women. Write on.

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