Writer's Experience Demonstrates Gender Bias in Publishing Industry

Writing in a notebook.
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Catherine Nichols had received around 50 rejections for the first few pages of her new manuscript when, frustrated, she sent it out to six new agents under the name “George Leyer.” Three of the six immediately replied with a request for more information. After sending out 50 more inquiries, Nichols noticed a pattern: she received eight times more positive responses by using the male pseudonym than by using her own name.

Nichols documents her experience in the recent Jezebel piece “Homme de Plume,” which has put additional pressure on a publishing industry already criticized for gender bias. While women are well represented within the publishing industry, prestigious award lists are often dominated by men. Nichols experience suggests that the industry’s problem may come much earlier in the pipeline than at the awards’ boards. Women writers may be published less often than male authors, which may lead them to drop out of the field.  

Nichols’ personal experience mirrors the results of numerous studies, which show that identical work profiles with masculine versus feminine names are subject to bias in teaching evaluations and in the classroom.