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Publishers feel gender irrelevant in profession

New Delhi: Publishing is now a very gender- fair industry and women who are in top editorial positions feel core competence and creative ability drive the choices in a publishing house.

Urvashi Butalia heads Zubaan, Ritu Menon is in charge of Women Unlimited while Karthika V K, Milee Ashwarya and Chiki Sarkar all perform top editorial functions at HarperCollins, Random House and Penguin India respectively among several other women in this field.

"There have always been women in top editorial positions in Indian publishing houses. This is not a new trend," says Menon, founder of Women Unlimited, an associate of Kali for Women, who has been active in the South Asian women`s movement for over 20 years.

She does not feel that number of women in top editorial positions has made it more of a feminised workplace.  "The change has come about because of women-owned and run publishing houses, because these are generally editorial-driven, rather than market-driven," Menon told PTI.

Mita Kapur, CEO of Siyahi, says publishing in the recent past has seen women at the top and thus it is a less sexist industry in that sense. "What needs to change is that we need to see more women leading sales, marketing distribution in publishing." Gender, to her, is irrelevant to her when she`s focussed on work and I`ve seen the same attitude with most women leading publishing houses.

 Agrees Dipa Chaudhuri, Chief Editor of Om Books International. "The point is not whether a woman or a man occupies the top editorial position in publishing, but the responsibilities the position entails and how these are discharged. The nature of the responsibilities does not change because of the gender.However, women largely head the editorial division while the administrative head may be a man. The responsibilities are different. I do not evaluate that through a `sexist` filter… Core competence and creative ability, not gender, drive the choices in a publishing house," she says.

To her, a woman in a top editorial position does not mean that all the readers get are either diet or beauty-tips books, or frothy romances. "Going beyond gender-stereotyping, it simply means that the major categories in a publishing list do not change, that the Nuremburg Trials, the Godhra riots, Commando comics, military history, screenplays, biographies, fiction, academic studies…all continue to be published."

The real challenges, she feels, are related to publishing issues- the kind of titles to commission, feasible print-runs, e-book trade, the impact of online sales on brick-and-mortar distribution and sales outlets and innovative marketing strategies.

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