For me, one aspect since beginning the MSc Publishing course at Edinburgh Napier University that has inspired me the most is the many women speakers at events and lectures that I have had the opportunity to attend, not to mention the wonderful industry women I have had the pleasure of communicating with directly. In their own way, each of these women have not only helped me to better understand the industry that I am just entering into, but have inspired me to really seize every opportunity, whether it be by providing valuable advice, an insight into their role or an opportunity.
The thing that has stood out to me this trimester is the strength of the women I have come across in the industry. One of the first events that I attended, Magfest, opened with speaker Zillah Byng-Thorne, Chief Executive Officer at Future Plc. She encouraged, ‘be open to the unexpected’ – impacting advice considering how dubious climbing the career ladder can be in an age where many top positions are filled by men. Not for Byng-Thorne, her advice was unflinching, frank and encouraging – don’t think there is only one path for you; take every opportunity; go for it. That there are many different roles in publishing, often unexpected or intertwined, is a message which has since been recurrent throughout this course. What has become increasingly clear to me, is the importance to have confidence and to be open to taking chances.
Each one of the many guest lecturers that have visited have imparted experience, knowledge and advice in indispensable, unique ways. Most of these guest lecturers were women, and strikingly for me, inspirational in their passion. Ann Crawford, spent the day with us on two separate occasions, giving an insight into the progression of her career in publishing through the years and the power of give and take as she delved into publishing house dynamics. At the forefront of everything, however, was her love for what she does. Helen Williams, another guest lecturer, inspired with her passion and expertise in Print Production – this industry is certainly not lacking in passionate, expert women.
Susan Kemp’s masterclass was particularly motivating. From her experienced position as a freelance editor and as Publishing postgrad alumni, her insight made me think not only about where I might fit into publishing, but to value the skills that I have as well as the efforts of others. Kemp’s understanding and compassionate air with her unwavering resolve shows that you do not need to have one or the other – there is strength in each of these qualities. Knowing my own worth in whichever area I decide to go into, being open to continuous development, having empathy for authors and clients, and the importance of an entrepreneurial attitude stood out to me as invaluable advice going forward.
Whether it be from a visionary outlook, expertise or an entrepreneurial perspective, each of these women have carved a place for themselves in authoritative, creative and innovative roles.
There is also an element of shared experience and support among many women in the industry. My first-hand experience of this has pleasantly surprised me. The readiness of various women who I have been in contact with, most of whom have been in managerial roles, have amazed me with their support and willingness to provide opportunities; from providing me with an open and honest insight into the inner workings of their company, to being open to my input, to providing reading and writing experience. In each case, the insight and skills I have gained have been invaluable, and the opportunities to get involved have strengthened my belief that the publishing world is where I should be. Indeed, I believe that these women, selfless in their support and encouragement, pave the way for future generations of publishers.
Of course, it is not simply industry professionals and guest speakers who inspire me. Most of my classmates who I have had the pleasure of learning with since September are women, and not only share a love of books and creativity, but in my experience, are supportive and encouraging of each other (as are the men) – a great sign as one day we may be colleagues.
However, I must add, these are just a handful of the many women who have inspired me in trimester one, and I am positive there are many more to come.
Overall, I am feeling optimistic about the variety of jobs that are out there for women that are achievable through hard work, and encouraged by the supportive community of women who make the industry seem less daunting for newcomers like myself. Of course, seeing an aspect of the industry that is working well – inspiring, supportive and motivating – those areas which are truly lacking have become glaringly obvious to me: many top positions are largely occupied by men and a recent survey shows that there is still a gender pay gap at 15.7% (bookcareers.com). There is also a striking lack of diversity in the industry which publishers don’t seem to have the answer to yet. Luckily, I have next trimester to explore these pertinent issues further!