Don’t Skirt the Issue -December 2019 Mind the Gap

Mind the Gap is a common phrase used on the Underground in the UK to alert passengers to use caution getting off the tube, as there is a distance between the train and the platform.

Today, it is also a phrase commonly used to recognize the gender pay gap between men and women, which has existed in most industries in some shape or form. For instance, while publishing is a predominantly female-driven field, men in the industry are often paid more, promoted faster and receive higher senior bonuses.

Hachette Book Group, headquartered in New York, is a leading US trade publisher and a division of the third-largest trade and educational book publisher in the world, Hachette Livre of France. In 2017 alone, the company had 167 books on the New York Times bestseller list, 34 of which reached number one. In a recent study, the bookseller revealed that Hachette Ltd. has a “median gender pay gap of 24.71 percent, a mean gender pay gap of 29.69 percent, and a median bonus gender pay gap of 62.64 percent.” Being told there is a significant gender pay gap in the publishing industry is one thing, but seeing data proves these findings need to be addressed. And employees in the publishing industry aren’t the only ones experiencing this gender disparity.

While several female authors have revolutionized book publishing and have done exceptionally well, including Toni Morrison (African-American winner of both the Pulitzer Prize and Nobel Prize in Literature), Ursula K. Le Guin (American who presided over science fiction for half a century) and Margaret Atwood (a Canadian poet, novelist, literary critic, essayist, inventor, teacher, feminist and environmental activist), many female authors throughout history have been forced to write under male pseudonyms.

Even J. K. Rowling, the ninth-best-selling fiction author of all time (estimated 500 million copies sold) felt the need to take on the pseudonym Robert Galbraith when she published The Cuckoo’s Calling prior to publishing the Harry Potter series. As a publisher, I am not only frustrated with these results but discouraged. Although we can raise awareness, I am not sure how we change this problem in the short run. We definitely can’t take this sitting down!

That said, I want to share a story of inspiration from a December many years ago, about a woman who actually did make a difference sitting down. December 1 marks the anniversary of Rosa Parks’ decision 64 years ago, at age 42 in Montgomery, Alabama, to hold onto her bus seat for a fast track to equality and the legal end of segregation in the USA. Not only was this a brave statement for racial equality, it was a testament of how we, as women, must band together even today for the changes that are necessary. We must express our own voice and differing viewpoints without the fear that we will be reduced in the workplace or suffer consequences such as being fired, passed up for a promotion or sexually harassed.

Parks was arrested on December 1, 1955, after she broke the law by refusing to surrender her seat on a crowded bus to a white passenger. She was jailed and fined—then became the public spokesperson, along with 26-year-old Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., for the NAACP to organize the Montgomery Improvement Association and stage a successful boycott of buses. Parks lost her job and King’s home was attacked, but a united African American community kept the boycott in place for 381 days. With about 75% of the public transportation customers in Montgomery being black, the boycott crippled revenues for the bus line, and, at the same time, the segregation fight made its way to the Supreme Court. On November 13, 1956, in the case of Browder v. Gayle, segregation on buses operating within Alabama’s boundaries was ruled illegal, upholding equal protection under the 14th Amendment. Victory!

When she passed away at the age of 92 in 2005, Congress voted to have Rosa Parks honored with a public viewing at the Capitol Rotunda. At the time, she was the first woman of the 30 people ever accorded that honor, and her coffin sat on the catafalque built for the coffin of Abraham Lincoln. Rosa Parks did Mind The Gap—And then she closed it!

Put that in your holiday cocktail glass and sip on it a while. Cheers, ladies, and keep pressing forward.


“Pixie” Paula Dezzutti is a best selling author, speaker, owner of Local Choice Spirits, Striped Pig Distillery, MusicMediaMagic and is the Editor-in-Chief and CEO of Skirt. Magazine

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