10th Publisher Conference steers conversation on
gender gaps in global publishing industry

Four women publishers discuss expanding role of women leadership
at panel session titled,
‘Is it a woman’s world?’

Sharjah, November 2, 2020

In the presence of Sheikha Bodour bint Sultan Al Qasimi, Vice President, International Publishers Association (IPA), the second day of the 10th Publishers Conference held at Expo Centre Sharjah yesterday (Monday), ahead of the 39th Sharjah International Book Fair (SIBF), convened leading publishers from across the world to discuss the growing role of women, and ways to improve their leadership in the global publishing industry.  

Sharing their thoughts on, ‘Is it a woman’s world? Global women in publishing’ were Azafi Omoluabi-Ogosi, CEO, Parresia Publishers Ltd (Nigeria); Hala Omar, Owner and CEO, Dar Hala for Publishing & Distribution (Egypt); Judith Rosenszweig, Foreign Rights Director, Gallimard publishing (France); and Reagan Arthur, Publisher and Executive Vice President, Alfred A. Knopf (USA).

The session was moderated by Emma House, Managing Consultant of UK’s Oreham Group.  

Describing Parresia as a young independent publishing company in Nigeria conceived in 2012 with the idea of giving a voice to young authors never published before, Azafi Omoluabi-Ogosi said: “We were therefore not seen primarily as a female-led publishing company, but I am proud to see that more publishing companies headed by women are coming up across the country.”

She added: “In Nigeria, female publishers today dominate the relatively small-sized contemporary fiction segment while the larger educational publishing sector is male dominated.”

Egypt’s Hala Omar described how, despite her decades-long experience in the book industry, it was only when she first sold out her entire stock of 12 translated titles exhibited at the Sharjah International Book Fair several years ago that she began to gain wider recognition as a publisher. “I was the lone woman in the industry 30 years ago, but the SIBF experience and several awards made industry peers finally take my work seriously.”

Today, Dar Hala has 600 titles to its credit, she added. “I am proud that more women are entering Egypt’s book industry – whether as publishers or authors. Their increasing presence at book fairs and conferences are steering conversations on the need for diversity and ways to bridge the gender gap in this sector.”

Addressing the session virtually via Zoom, Judith Rosenszweig, said: “What is exemplary about the French publishing industry is that we have more than a dozen publishing companies created by women and named after women. One publisher was also made France’s Minister of Culture in 2017.”  

She added: “What is disappointing is that despite these advances, less women are in top executive positions. I attribute this to education, and my advice is to fathers everywhere to educate their girls to aim high and aspire for new career heights and regard themselves as being just as competent as men.”

“I never felt that my gender held me back,” stated Reagan Arthur, in a virtual address.

She added: “Today, with more women from other fields are entering the sector, it is widening our lens in publishing and I look forward to the creativity they will bring to this sector.”

Earlier in the day, the 10th Publisher’s Conference also saw award-winning Emirati author, Salha Obaid, in conversation with moderator Layla Al Wafi where she urged Western publishers to widen their scope and readership with translations of Arabic works.