Self-publishing: The next step to further empower women in business

According to the Publishers Association, over half of executive leadership and senior management roles in publishing are held by women. Despite this, gender disparity amongst authors and genres remains prevalent. While men continue to dominate the world of business books, Annabel Wright, CSO of whitefox Publishing, explores how independent authoring and self-publishing can provide the perfect platform for female-identifying entrepreneurs to share their professional voice and elevate their career.

Much like the real world, there has always been a gendered divide in literature and fictional spaces. An analysis of the New York Times bestsellers spanning over 65 years revealed that books by women made up only a quarter of the list in the 1950s. After decades of fluctuation, female authors made steady gains in the 1990s and 2000s, sitting just below the 50 percent mark, which remains the current ratio.

However, publishing is in a unique position. The publishing world is made up of a 64 percent female workforce, with women holding more than half of executive leadership and senior management positions. While many industries may structurally fail to support female creativity, publishing is perfectly set up for women to support women – so much so, that some commentators argue the scales need to be rebalanced.

Fiction might be experiencing a surge in the number of female authors, but that’s certainly not the case across all genres. In The Week’s definitive guide, ‘Ten best business books of 2021’, only two are written by women, one of which is co-authored by a man.

The absence of women’s stories in this genre helps to distort people’s perceptions of what makes an ideal leader and innovator. As a female business leader myself, this is frustrating and symptomatic of the broader gender disparity in the business world. The lack of female voices contributes to the tired and outdated narrative that men are better suited for the positions of power in business.

Self-publishing offers an opportunity for more inspirational leaders to raise their voice, possibly helping to boost female-led figures in the business category, while also benefiting and building a women’s personal brand. Here are a number of reasons why I’d encourage every motivated woman to start putting pen to paper and draft up that first book.

Further obstacles for businesswomen

Looking at representation in boardrooms and corporate offices across the UK, it becomes clearer why fewer business books may be authored by women. In FTSE 100 companies, only 39 percent of boardroom roles are held by women – though, it must be said, this is a vast improvement in gender balance than the 12.5 percent it stood at only a decade ago.

Whether CEO or not, other aspects of being a woman – such as parenthood – can also make navigating the world of business more challenging. A study from 2019 found that just 28 percent of women were in full-time or self-employed work three years after childbirth, while the employment rate for men was 90 percent. The COVID-19 pandemic has also played its part in causing havoc on the delicate work-life balance, blurring the lines of domestic duties, childcare and corporate work.

It’s important to also consider the psychology behind publishing a professional, yet personal memoir. Among many possible factors, perhaps women’s discomfort over self-promotion causes many to overlook their own accomplishments, resulting in a lack of confidence to progress to authorship. Writing a business book is offering advice from the inside, and from your own experience. You, as the author, are front and centre as a leader – and that is exactly why you should do it.

Publishing to new heights

Writing a book can help elevate your career to the next level – we’ve seen this ourselves at whitefox. Former Nike employees vice president Lisa MacCallum and former Nike Foundation Creative Brand Director Emily Brew wanted to inspire a new model of corporate business, leading to the creation of their management consultancy Inspired Companies.

Crucial to the launch of their new business, the entrepreneurs produced their book, Inspired INC, sharing their vision and ethos with the world, and leading to numerous business opportunities as a result. As their self-publishing partner, we offered tailored advice and services for every stage of the production process, taking their initial concept from manuscript to printed and audiobooks.

Perhaps most importantly of all, as a testament to Lisa and Emma’s professional accomplishments, the pair retained complete ownership and creative integrity throughout the project.

In the traditional publishing world, Lisa and Emily’s initial idea may have been skewed in line with industry targets and trends – that’s if they managed to get their foot in the door in the first place. There are certainly parallels between the struggle to find opportunities in the publishing world and numerous other challenges women may face in business. By taking those first steps into your own hands, self-publishing your unique insights for the public to read, it could soon lead to a snowball effect on career progression.

The new and improved business card

A lot has changed for the business sector in the last three years, let alone when you reflect on the huge changes of the previous twenty or thirty years. As a result, the once heavily relied upon business card doesn’t quite hold the same importance in today’s world. The global pandemic forced many industries further towards digital solutions and online functions, changing the way people network and share information.

However, with people spending an increased amount of time online, and digital fatigue presenting a very real problem for many, tangible print books provide a much-needed escape from technological confides.

Presenting a much more insightful deep-dive into your vision and values, a book offers far more value than the traditional small rectangle piece of card ever could and acts as an extension of your personal branding or business’ marketing activity. Often, the best, most innovative ideas aren’t mainstream – and with self-publishing, there are fewer barriers to getting the idea over the line.

This disparity is just one example of a number of imbalances that require an even more urgent solution, with many publishers establishing diversity initiatives designed to attract a greater racial and socio-economic diversity of talent.

We truly believe in the power of publishing to empower authors of all backgrounds, race and gender to share their ideas with the world. But, as the business category continues to fall short of female authors, let’s inspire those struggling to overcome traditional stereotypes in the sector, with the freedom that the platform enables.