The FLIP: Female Leadership in Publishing

The FLIP – Female Leadership in Publishing – is a project established by three women involved in the publishing industry, in marketing, publicity, and editorial roles. Sophie Christopher, Ella Horne, and Helena Gonda, all working at Penguin Random House UK, established this digital platform and a monthly newsletter to showcase “brilliant, inspiring, courageous and creative” women in publishing. Through interviews with leading female figures in the publishing and wider literary world, the FLIP is allowing women to share their experiences and struggles to help others develop their careers and aiming to inspire women to continue to push into leadership roles in this industry.

Through the previous decade, as publishing has become increasingly corporatized, it appears that women have struggled to make it into publishing leadership roles. In 2017 the Guardian published an article sharing women’s experiences with male dominance in senior management roles. While some of the women interviewed argued that women did have the opportunities to become industry leaders, a vast majority agreed that the central management roles were increasingly being taken by white, middle-class men. For an industry that is built on creativity and sharing new voices, white, male-dominated leadership is excluding a vast majority of voices. A 2017 survey of salaries in UK publishing found a 15.7 per cent pay gap between male and female salaries: they suggested that the data indicated that the gap was caused by men being employed in higher-paying senior positions, while women would typically be in lower-paying roles. Christopher, Horne, and Gonda agreed that they wanted to hear more about women in leading roles in order to reverse this trend, and when they found no source for this, they decided to create their own platform.

After launching on 14 January this year, the FLIP had over 650 subscriptions to the newsletter and around 850 followers on Twitter within eight hours. The co-founders’ original goal was to build the number of subscribers up to 200 within two weeks of launch, a goal which was quickly achieved and far surpassed. The first monthly newsletter was sent on 28 January and contained their first interview with Sandy Mahal, the current director for Nottingham City of Literature, a project aimed to improve literacy standards in Nottingham and to champion the city as a creative city of literature. In this interview, she shared her experiences within the book industry and gave her view on how things need to be improved to encourage greater diversity. Since release, there has been a huge outpour of support on Twitter as numerous subscribers share their admiration, favourite quotes, and how Sandy’s experiences and advice has inspired them.

Christopher, Horne and Gonda have already planned future interviews, with enough content planned for the full year. Interviewees include Rebecca Smart, the managing director at DK Publishing, Lizzy Kremer, literary agent for David Higham Associates and president for the Association of Authors’ Agents, and Janine Giovanni, marketing director for Transworld publishers. The women interviewed are all those who have not been regularly platformed and who have been recommended by their peers, and anyone can recommend a female publishing figure to be included further into the future. The co-founders are also planning on going beyond these interviews to include advice around books and events intended to help women at any stage of their career. The newsletters will contain tips and advice to support any female figure in publishing in their goals towards senior roles. Their Twitter feed, @_TheFlip, is intended as space for women to come together and talk, in order to establish a supportive network from which women can strive to grow and succeed. With the current state of the publishing industry, the FLIP is a welcome development towards women having the confidence and community necessary to push the industry into becoming more representative, more diverse, and more equal.

Image: Abhi Sharma

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