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Fighting for equality in Scotland’s literature

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ROAR Research FAQs

Answers to frequently asked questions about the 2017 ROAR research.

Q: What is this research?

A: This study provides a snapshot of publishing, reviewing and book festivals in Scotland in 2017. It is part of a PhD project looking into gender equality in the Scottish literary sector, and forms part of the work of ROAR (Represent, Object, Advocate, Rewrite – find out more about ROAR here).

*Research statement by Professor Claire Squires: *

“Many of us operating within the Scottish literature and publishing sector have observed or encountered forms of structural inequality and discrimination, in terms of gender and its intersections. The research underpinning ROAR’s activities aims to bring a rigorous quantitative and qualitative understanding of these lived experiences, through data collection, analysis and communication. The initial set of data for 2017 represents a rigorous quantitative approach, based on those of the VIDA (https://www.vidaweb.org/the-2017-vida-count/) and the Stella (https://thestellaprize.com.au/the-count/) Counts. Through the provision of ongoing counts, the research aims to provide longitudinal evidence for inequalities, in order to facilitate conversations about those inequalities, and also to urge for and work towards change.”

“The research is funded by the AHRC (Arts and Humanities Research Council) and SGSAH (Scottish Graduate School of Arts & Humanities) Creative Economy studentship, and conducted by Christina Neuwirth with the close academic supervision of publishing and literature experts Professor Claire Squires (Professor of Publishing Studies, University of Stirling) and Dr Elizabeth Reeder (Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing, University of Glasgow), and in collaboration with Scottish Book Trust, and with the wider ROAR group.”

Q: Why did you decide to do this count?

A: As Claire Squires said above, the approach for this count is inspired by the work of VIDA and the Stella Count. The gender pay gap is often used as an indicator of gender inequality in professions. However, income of authors is difficult to track – many authors have income from various sources, and there is no central reporting (although the Society of Authors has found a gender wage gap in authors’ earnings, which you can read about here: https://www.societyofauthors.org/News/News/2018/June/42-real-terms-fall-in-UK-author-earnings-since-20 ). I wanted to find out whether there is a gender disparity in the outputs of the sector. How many women and non-binary people were being published, and in what genres? Were they being reviewed, and did they do the reviewing? Were they being programmed to speak at book festivals, and in what ways? (CN)

Q: How did you go about doing this count?

A: Where possible, I used biographical information on the author to record their gender. If you are interested, there is more information about the lists of published books, reviews, festival programmes I used on the research page here (https://roar.scot/2019/07/25/roar-2017-research-findings.html), and the ways I determined the figures.

Q: I am very interested in getting involved in ROAR.

A: That’s great! We are delighted to have your support. At the moment, the best way to get involved is to drop us an email at mail@roar.scot – we will be creating a mailing list in the first instance to keep interested folks aware of events, new research, and other ways to get involved. When we create the mailing list, we will email you and ask if you’d like to be on it.

Q: When you count the percentage of women involved in different parts of the sector, what do you mean by ‘women’?

A: This count is inclusive of trans women. The study includes information based on biographical information provided by publishers, the authors themselves, events, etc. As the study did not involve surveys and self-reporting, there is no distinction made between trans and cis women in the data – all women are counted as women.

Q: What do you mean by ‘non-binary people’?

A: A non-binary person is someone “who self-identifies outwith the gender binary of men and women” (http://nonbinaryscotland.org/about/). This study includes information based on biographical information provided by publishers, the authors themselves, events, etc, meaning that the study recorded a person as non-binary if they publicly identified as such.

Q: What about inequality based on ethnicity and race?

A: This is a vital subject – examples of recent research which shows structural and persistent discrimination based on race and ethnicity in literature and publishing include poetry-specific research (Ledbury Emerging Poetry Critics https://www.liverpool.ac.uk/new-and-international-writing/emerging-critics/ ) to young adult writing (https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s12109-018-9600-5 and https://www.thebookseller.com/news/study-shows-decline-number-ya-authors-colour-839126 ) to children’s books (https://clpe.org.uk/library-and-resources/research/reflecting-realities-survey-ethnic-representation-within-uk-children ). More research needs to be done in Scotland to give robust evidence of how discrimination based on ethnicity and race affects the sector here. ROAR is hoping to do work on this later this year.

Q: What about class?

A: We know class is a big factor in access to the creative industries. Many responses exist to this already – Dave O’Brien and colleagues produced the Panic! Report in 2018, which “highlights the significant exclusions of those from working class origins, women and those from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) backgrounds” (https://createlondon.org/event/panic-paper/ ); Laura Waddell wrote about class and the publishing industry in Nasty Women (404 Ink, 2017). As the figures in this study are based on self-identification and bibliographical information, it was not possible to collect information on class this way.

Q: What about language?

A: Language was not within the scope of the 2017 research project.

Q: What about disability?

A: It was not possible for information about ability to be collected using the method of remotely collecting information on authors.

Q: What about sexuality?

A: Using the method of self-identification and bibliographical information available it was not possible to collect information on sexuality.

Q: Did you find out anything about discrimination in literary prizes?

A: Looking at who won prizes in 2017 is interesting, but it only tells part of the story: for example, while Denise Mina won the McIlvanney Prize for Scottish Crime Book of the Year in 2017, she was the first woman to do so since the prize was set up in 2012 (https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-41212058 ). Long-term studies of individual prizes will be conducted as part of the PhD research project to examine gender equality in literary prizes.

Q: What do you mean by “Scottish publishing”?

A: The study included information on trade publishing by Publishing Scotland members, and Birlinn Ltd. These publishers are not an exhaustive list of the ecosystem of Scottish literature and publishing.

Q: Would 50% women make for ‘representative’ proportion?

A: 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). Scottish Trans and Equality Network have done extensive work on non-binary people’s experience in the UK and in Scotland, which you can find here: https://www.scottishtrans.org/non-binary/ However, representation in publishing, reviewing, and festival programming is about more than replicating the proportions of the population, and the census data and estimated population numbers are simply a comparison point.

Q: I’m very interested in this – can you give me further sources?

A: Yes! Here are some starting points for further reading:

Nasty Women, Heather McDaid and Laura Jones, eds., 404 Ink, 2017

Where Are the Women? A Guide to an Imagined Scotland, by Sara Sheridan, Historic Environment Scotland, 2019

Nicola Griffith, about gender and literary awards: https://nicolagriffith.com/2015/05/26/books-about-women-tend-not-to-win-awards/

Male and female writers’ media coverage reveals ‘marked bias’ – the Emilia Report https://www.theguardian.com/books/2019/mar/18/male-and-female-writers-media-coverage-reveals-marked-bias

VIDA Count http://www.vidaweb.org/

The Stella Count https://thestellaprize.com.au/the-count/2017-stella-count/

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