Business Advice

Self-Publishing: The Next Step to Further Empower Women in Business

Annabel Wright | 14 March 2022 | 2 years ago

self-publishing

According to the Publishers Association, more than half of senior management and leadership positions in the publishing industry are occupied by women. Gender imbalances are still present across the wider industry, however. Here, Annabel Wright, CSO of Whitefox Publishing, delves into how self-publishing can provide a platform for female entrepreneurs to grow their personal brand and express their individuality. 

Having worked in the media for the majority of my life, I’ve witnessed first-hand a number of major changes in the sector and have always felt encouraged by the number of women I’ve seen in senior roles and positions of power. However, while we are certainly closer than we were to achieving gender equality and stamping out outdated ways of thinking, we’re not quite there yet.

Compared to many sectors, the publishing industry is in a relatively unique position. In publishing, women make up the majority (64%) of the workforce and hold more than half (52%) of all leadership and management positions.

On the author side, fiction bestseller lists are frequently dominated by women. However, business books retain a bias in favour of men. Of the works listed in The Week’s ‘the ten best business books of 2021’, only two were written by women, with one of these co-authored by a man.

It’s evident there is a huge gap in the business genre for more female voices, and self-publishing presents an opportunity for businesswomen and female entrepreneurs to let theirs be heard.

This is just one of a number of pressing diversity challenges for the publishing industry to overcome. The Publishers Association found that representation of people from Black, Asian, and minority ethnic groups has remained around 13% since 2017 – and many publishers and agents are now focusing on making their workplaces more diverse.

In the wake of International Women’s Day, and to encourage all of us to explore how we play our part in breaking the bias, here are a few reasons why female leaders – and particularly POC female leaders – should consider dedicating time to writing their first book.

Breaking down challenges

Evidence suggests that women continue to be underrepresented in the business sector as a whole and, in turn, the business book genre. This isn’t from lack of interest. According to BusinessLive, 12.5% of women show an interest in starting a business, compared with 8 per cent of men. However, across the UK, only 20% of active businesses are female led. So between the idea and the execution, something is slowing women from following their business instincts.

Many factors come into play – men tend to receive more investor funding for their businesses, for instance – but external factors add another dimension to the challenge facing female entrepreneurs. Domestic and family pressures tend to weigh heaviest on women, slowing their entry into the entrepreneurial landscape. A study found, three years after having a child, only 28% of women were in full time or self-employed work, whereas the employment rate for men was 90%. This imbalance needs to shift.

Then there are psychological considerations. A Harvard University study found a deep discomfort among women about self-promotion of their skills and experience, which hampered their progress on pay and promotions. We are trained not to be too ‘pushy’ or boastful – and this can hamper us from rightly celebrating our own accomplishments.

To author a business book with any authority, you must be able to acknowledge your experience and expertise, and to recognise that these will be of value to many others. And this is why I firmly believe that women entrepreneurs should author books – to act as a concrete marker of their accomplishments, and to inspire a generation of readers who need to see women unapologetically owning and celebrating their successes and acumen.

Stepping into new territory

For women in business, self-publishing is becoming an increasingly popular avenue. Self publishing allows the author to control both the look and feel of the book as well as, perhaps most importantly, how their voice is heard.

At Whitefox, we have witnessed this first-hand. Former Nike Vice President Lisa MacCallum and former Nike Foundation Creative Brand Director Emily Brew wanted to create a new corporate business model, which led to their management firm, Inspired Companies. Since launching, they have published their book Inspired INC worldwide, with our tailored advice on each stage of the process.

In the traditional publishing space, Lisa and Emily would have had to fit their book into a publisher’s busy schedule – not only in terms of timing, but also the overall balance of the list. Many good books go unpublished because there isn’t ‘space’ for them amongst previously commissioned titles. If you have a strong story to tell, it’s important to recognise when it might be time to take your publishing project into your own hands and not only reap the benefits commercially, but also in your professional and personal life.

Maximise your book’s potential 

Self-publishing allows much greater control over your project, creatively and in terms of timing. This is invaluable if you have a manuscript which is timely or are pushing to publish ahead of an event or milestone.

Developing your own book is a great way to extend your personal brand, reinforce your authority within your field, and create something truly unique that encapsulates your insight, passion or career. As the business genre continues to underserve female authors, we believe women’s stories can be even more impactful as they inspire and uplift those looking for examples of what success looks like for women entrepreneurs and business leaders. It’s vital for women in business to realise how valuable their personal experiences are to share.

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