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Bestselling authors and publishers – but women still facing gender barriers

The Frankfurt Book Fair 2017, which ended on October 15, has clearly reflected women’s prominence in the publishing industry, emphasising their roles across the board from publishing and distribution to writing and marketing.

Female authors frequently top global bestsellers charts and women’s presence in publishing is also highly dominant. Many publishing houses have an overwhelming majority of women in all aspects of the industry; according to a survey conducted last year by publishers Lee & Low of more than 13,000 publishing professionals, 78% of all employees are made up of women – however men occupy 40% of management positions.

In recent decades, the Arab world has achieved some progress towards gender equality as far as authors are concerned, but there is a general consensus that the number of women involved in publishing may still be lacking compared to Europe.

In the programme at Frankfurt this year, a lecture delivered by Bulgarian-French intellectual Julia Kristeva was one of the most highly-anticipated events on the agenda in her roles as philosopher, literary critic and most recently novelist. Her popularity is widespread, including in Germany, the host country, and in France (the Guest of Honour Country). Kristeva’s lecture was considered as a highlight of the fair and was organised at Goethe University, home to the internationally acclaimed Frankfurt School of Social Science.

Renowned French-Moroccan writer Leila Slimani, who also participated in France’s Guest of Honour programme with Algerian writer Kamal Dawood, was central to a discussion about writing and fundamental freedoms in the Arab world. Slimani has also appeared in television programmes on German TV channels, such as ARD, ZDF, and 3sat, and has been a presenter on the French-German channel ARTE.

The appearance of women at the Frankfurt Book Fair was merely natural because it was a reflection of their constant presence and influence in the book industry. In the recent decades, the Arab world has achieved some progress towards gender equality in opportunities between male and female writers.