I love what I do and I’ve been fortunate enough to work with a lot of amazing art directors on a lot of great projects. I’m always grateful for the work I get. But I’ve talked to a lot of women in the industry over the years, and there is a clear pattern we’ve all experienced. One day a few months ago, I was commissioned to work on the backlist of a prolific women’s lit author. Minutes later, an art director called about a memoir in which the author was “always the bridesmaid.” Later that day: a novel about a wife dealing with her husband’s indifference while balancing her new career and motherhood. Three projects from three different art directors. All aimed directly at women readers.
I doubt that many of my male colleagues have had the same experience. And that day wasn’t an anomaly.
The talented art director and cover designer Catherine Casalino has told me, “When you’re on the receiving end of a project, it’s hard to say no, and even harder to explain why you don’t want to work exclusively on women’s fiction,” and continued with, “I think if we mixed things up a little more—hired women to design sports books and hired men to design cookbooks—we’d get some fresh and unexpected designs. And that would benefit all of us in the industry.” Another female designer has written to me saying, “It’s no surprise that women are assigned these topics—being women, it’s natural to assume we are interested in these things—but sometimes the associations are so tenuous that you start wondering if the gender bias is actually a form of laziness.”