The WILAA Survey

Our Survey of Australian Writers is intended to be a look at what writers felt about their careers, and what (if any) differences might be found by gender.

 

Women writers face unique challenges, things that are often only spoken about in general terms and in an amorphous sense that many other women or non-binary people feel similarly. What we hoped to uncover was whether statistics bore this out.

 

In our 2016 Survey there were 262 responses to the survey. This is a wonderful base to start what we intend to be an annual snapshot of the situation for women and non-binary writers in Australia. Due to the low number of men taking the survey, it is hard to extrapolate the differences in how men and women viewed the same topics or challenges, which we would like to resolve with a greater number of male respondents in future years.

 

We would like to address a concern that has been raised with us regarding the survey. Women of colour approached WILAA to express their concern that the survey was too general to encompass the unique challenges many in their community faced. They wanted to see a survey that reflected the particular challenges or issues women of colour and other marginalised groups face, which many white women do not. WILAA acknowledges that this was a flaw of the first survey. We apologise for not having addressed this in our first survey and endeavour to improve. and have redesigned future surveys to encourage responses that reflect more intersectional experiences including in areas of gender identity, sexuality, disability and race.

The results

Age

Location

Rural vs Metro

Are you a writer?

What initiatives and organisations are you aware of?

It was heartening to see so many women tapped into existing organisations and initiatives. We hope WILAA can facilitate more women finding out about the many great supports that are available to them.

Which kinds of writing do you do?

We are pleased to have heard from writers practicing such a wide range of disciplines. WILAA aims to support writers of every kind, not just those traditionally considered in mainstream definitions of ‘writer’.

Do you feel there is adequate support for women writers?

An enormous 74.2% of women writers do not feel there is adequate support for them. This, above all other figures, speaks to the need for greater investment in specific initiatives for women in literature.

Do you feel confident discussing payment for work?

59.3% of women did not feel confident about discussing payment for their work, or were unsure or neutral on this point. For over half of the women working in fields of literature and writing to feel uncertain about discussing wages and fees for work is a troubling statistic. In order to achieve parity with their male counterparts and decrease the wage gap women must be empowered to feel confident discussing payment for their work.

Do you feel confident approaching editors?

Only 32.3% of women writers feel confident approaching editors. This is a concerningly low figure, which indicates that women need further support in this area. Approaching editors is a vital part of having a successful career as a writer, as without establishing good relationships with these ‘gatekeepers’ it is nearly impossible for a writer to find an audience for their work.

Do you feel gender is a barrier to getting work?

34.4% of women felt their gender was a barrier to them getting work, while only 29% were sure it was not. The remaining 36.7% of respondents were unsure or neutral on this point. For a third of writers to be confident their gender was a barrier to employment is a significant concern. More can, and should, be done by those in the industry to ensure women feel welcomed and are not discriminated against on the basis of their gender when seeking work.

Is finding time to write difficult for you?

Over half the women who responded to this survey found it difficult to find time to write. This is hardly surprising given studies show that women still undertake a disproportionate amount of domestic duties and child rearing within the home, despite greater levels of workplace participation. It also raises questions regarding how many women are feeling the pressure of the wage gap, needing to supplement income from other employment sources as they are inadequately compensated for their writing work.

Do you feel represented at industry events?

Almost half of respondents (46.3%) indicated they did not feel represented at industry events. WILAA intends to shed further light on gender representation at literary events by undertaking a statistical analysis of Australian festivals and events series. We hope that having accurate statistical information on how many women appear on stages at literary events all over the country will enable for gender imbalances to be addressed where required, and for the industry to gain a clear understanding of the scope of the issue.

How likely would you be to attend events specifically for women writers?

Over three-quarters of respondents (79.3%) would be likely to attend events specifically for women writers. Given the popularity of women-focused programs such as EWF’s #writingwhilefemale (2015) and A Room Of One’s Own (2016), the upcoming Writers Victoria Diverse Women Writers and the Stella’s Girls Write Up, it is clear there is a community of women writers wanting to connect, learn and skill-share. More opportunities to address the needs of women writers would be welcome.

How many works by Australian women writers have you read in the past year?

It is exciting to see that so many women writers are avid readers of other women writers. Initiatives such as the Australian Women Writers Challenge have encouraged readers to study their habits and increase the amount of books they read by women writers.

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