In a major moment for literary journalism, the Stella Count, which records the extent of gender bias in the field of book reviewing in Australia, is now running nearly 50/50.
In 2018, 49% of all published book reviews surveyed were of books written by women. This number has increased 9% over the past 7 years since the Count began.
These powerful results suggest that the act of counting itself is an effective way to shift the gender balance of literary reviews and journalism in Australia.
By holding major publications to account for the gender equity in their pages, the Stella Count has led to real change. The proof is in the numbers.
The Stella Count is conducted with academics from the Australian National University and Monash University, and it surveys the book review sections of 12 of Australia’s major newspapers, journals and magazines, both in print and online.
— The Stella Prize (@TheStellaPrize) September 19, 2019
Books written by women authors comprised 50% or more of the reviews in 9 out of the 12 publications surveyed in 2018. In 2015, only one of these publications had achieved such gender parity.
Women non-fiction authors have also gained more attention, with 42% of all non-fictions books reviewed in the publications surveyed written by women. This is up from 37% in 2017.
And following the trend across the past two years of the Count, non-fiction is now reviewed equally by male and female reviewers.
In 2016 and 2017, eight publications published more reviews by women than by men. In 2018, nine of 12 publications we survey published more reviews by women than by men.
Notably, Australian Financial Review’s entire collection of reviews are, as in the previous year’s Count, written by women.
Despite all this good news, it is worth noting that gender silos continue to be an issue in Australia’s book reviewing. In the 2018 Count, there is only one publication in which one gender reviews another gender more than it does its own.