Book Reviews Reach Gender Parity in 2018

Australian book reviewers are covering books by men and women in equal numbers for the first time, according to research by Monash University, The Australian National University (ANU) and the Stella Count.

The Stella Count assesses the extent of gender bias in Australian book reviewing across national, metropolitan and regional newspapers, journals and magazines.

The Count, which is undertaken by Monash and ANU academics with the Stella Prize and media monitors Isentia, showed that in 2018, 49 per cent of published literature reviews were for books written by female authors, up from 46 per cent in 2017.

Monash University’s Dr Melinda Harvey worked on the Stella Count analysis with Dr Julieanne Lamond from the Australian National University (ANU).

The careers of female authors have suffered due to gender bias within the literature industry, but the Stella Count aims to shine light on the issue. The Stella Count was established in 2012 to help drive gender parity across the literature industry.

“Before the Stella Count came along, claims of gender disparity in the book pages were easy to dismiss. But actual numbers speak volumes,” Dr Harvey said.

“Book reviews, even quotes from reviews on covers, can be the difference between a reader picking up or not picking up, or buying and not buying a book.

“There are over 3000 book reviews published in Australia's major newspapers and literary magazines every year.

“It's imperative that women's books and female reviewers have equal access to this influential space for literary discussion.

“Gender parity does not come about accidentally, so Australia's literary editors as a whole deserve congratulations for the huge improvements they’ve made to the representation of women authors in their book pages.”

"For most of the last 30 years, around two-thirds of reviewed books were by men,” Dr Lamond said.

“This is despite female authors in Australia producing around two-thirds of published books.

“Over the time we’ve been counting, we’ve made a real difference in how publications think about gender.

“Almost every single publication we count has just about reached parity, publishing as many reviews of books by women as by men.”

Despite the progress, Dr Lamond said there were still a small number of publications lagging behind.

“Two of the highest-profile publications in Australia haven’t kept up,” Dr Lamond said.

“The Weekend Australian and the Australian Book Review are still at about 60 per cent in favour of male authors.”