Female Publishing Leaders Talk Gender Equality at Work

In a discussion titled “Women at the Intersection of Publishing, Finance and Tech” on the third day of Digital Book World 2016, female publishing executives discussed what it takes to grow their businesses while encouraging gender equality in all sectors of the business world. Moderated by Charlotte Abbott of Abbott Communications and INscribe Digital, the talk included Sourcebooks’s Dominique Raccah, NetGalley’s Susan Ruszala, DeSilva+Phillips’s Joanna Stone Herman, and Penguin Random House’s Katherine McCahill.

To demonstrate the urgency of the subject, Abbott recited statistics regarding gender equality in the workplace. Tech companies, for example, are male-dominated at all levels and the presence of women decreases at upper management levels. Venture capitalists are also more likely to be white males, and only eight percent of funded companies are female-founded.

But having women in leadership roles benefits companies in their entirety, the executives argued.

“Having at least 30 percent of women in corporate leadership roles correlates to 15 percent more profitability,” said Abbott, referring to a Peterson Institute for International Economics report from February 2016. It also increases customer satisfaction and opens up new markets and audiences.

When Abbott turned the conversation to the panelists, the executives discussed the insights they’ve gained as female leaders in publishing and digital media.

“Being a CEO of your company allows you to go where data leads,” said Raccah. “At Sourcebooks, I’ve followed data that has led me to develop interesting products.”

For Ruszala, creating a work environment that’s better for both women and men is what’s most interesting.

“Work needs to change for both men and women,” Ruszala said. “Our company is completely virtual. Families have a place in our business. When I think about what women can bring as leaders, I think of the creation of small cultures and developing something good for both men and women.”

The panelists agreed that, moving forward, men and women need to work together to create a collaborative work environment.

“When you’re in a very male dominated world trying to innovate and women and men aren’t talking to each other, you’re not meeting needs in the middle,” said Herman.

McCahill agreed and added that one way to encourage collaboration is to include both women and men in the project management process.

“What we’ve done well at Penguin is include a lot of women in product management roles,” McCahill said. “You get interesting results when you have conversations between men and women. We’ve been open and encourage diverse viewpoints. The more that happens the more we have an interesting conversation that doesn’t end with groupthink.”

“It’s not about changing an industry, but changing what you do and the environment you create,” said Herman.

According to Raccah, the most important thing is getting women into top leadership roles.

“We’ve all worked on getting more women on boards,” she said. “I think one thing that’s difficult about being the only whatever in the room is just starting the process. Just saying ‘can we try this’ is very useful.”

“If you can get best talent pool from pulling from men and women,” Ruszala added, “wouldn’t you do that?”


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