This is a guest post by Doreen Bloch, a young entrepreneur and author. Doreen is the author of the new book, The Coolest Startups in America, and the CEO and Founder of Poshly Inc. She is a member of the Young Entrepreneur Council and is a regular contributor to Under30CEO.
I visited the famed bookstore The Strand at Union Square for the first time in June 2010, when I moved to New York City after college graduation. I made my way downstairs to the Business book section – my favorite in any bookstore – and it was then and there that the realization struck that there are very few women writers among these stacks. I could put on one shelf all the books written by women, versus the dozens of shelves it would take to contain business books penned by men.
That day, I began compiling data about the grave disparity of women in business book writing. If women make up 46.8% of the workplace in America (Source: Department of Labor) and 58% of college classrooms (Source: The New York Times), where are the female voices in our business thought-leadership?
You may not know it, but business literature is an extremely important category in the US book business. Showcasing its importance, business is one of two categories that The New York Times’ monthly bestseller lists specifically provide; the other category is Politics. Market share statistics for business books are hard to come by, but a recent article noted that while “consumer trade books get a majority of the attention, professional and scholarly books [including legal, science, and business segments], hold 75.9% of the $1.76 billion U.S. E-book market.” The apparent lack of women in the business book space is not a niche problem.
I have looked at the issue from a variety of perspectives. What follows are some discoveries and methodologies I have made.
1. A blueprint for determining female to male bylines of business books
Ideally, one would be able to compare directly the number of books written by men and women in this field, and compare it to other fields. Unfortunately, that would require sifting through something like 750,000 printed books, according to what is listed on Amazon.com in the Business & Investing category. Sorting them into male and female writers would be tedious. Instead, one could look at Amazon.com’s Upcoming Releases in Business listings, as a proxy for the general field. The data set is a more reasonable 300 or so books – which is large enough of a data set to draw conclusions, but small enough to be manageable. Over the course of several months, a ratio of women to men business writers would emerge.2. The gender disparity among business bestsellers
An interesting question is whether there are changes in time in the number of men versus women business writers hitting the nation’s bestseller lists in the category.
I analyzed the data (from The New York Times and BusinessWeek) from between 1996 and 2012. I was stunned that the graph shows that the number of women hitting the bestseller lists remained stagnant over 15 years at about 10%, and in the most recent months, it has even degraded.
This indicates that the issue may not be dependent on women achieving labor parity in the business world, but perhaps is caused by higher echelons of inequality in the corporate domain or the need for more book industry encouragement of successful businesswomen to write about their experiences and advice.
3. Within business, women disproportionately write in one category
Peeling back the onion, there is one category in which women shine at present as business book writers: the Women & Business category!
This graph is compiled from Amazon.com’s Top 20 listings within each Business sub-category. No sub-category of Business books exceeded 25% of women bylines in the Top 20 books, except the Women & Business sub-category in which nearly 75% of the writers are women. The Small Business & Entrepreneurship sub-category in fact had no women in the Top 20 at the time of data collection.
There are many interesting variables at play. I offer this data as anecdotal evidence of a gender disparity in business book writing. The ratios are troubling to me because I believe more women in business thought-leadership will help with the effort to bring more women to corporate leadership. While I would love to have the opportunity to investigate this issue further, and with more rigorous statistical tests to better understand possible causation, for now, I am busy writing business books.
Just yesterday, I stopped by Strand Books to deliver some of the first copies of my first book, The Coolest Startups in America. It’s thrilling to be a business book writer with a female byline. Check out the books by Bloch, Doreen (startup expert) alongside Orman, Suze (finance guru), Trump, Ivanka (management wunderkind) and Schroeder, Alice (official biographer). I hope my book will nudge the ratios a bit. I am so proud to share shelf-space, and hopefully mind-share, with my colleagues.