Women Decision-Makers: Why GenderAvenger Applauds The Guardian’s Take On a Best-Of List

The Guardian published the second half of its “Best Books of 2016” list, and it illustrates something GenderAvenger has known all along. The Guardian’s collection of must-reads goes beyond a numbered list of book titles and instead takes recommendations from readers who look back upon their reading year to give their personal greatest hits. Each of the readers is given a couple of paragraphs with seemingly no limit on how many suggestions they are allowed to make.

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Beyond a straightforward tally (number of women authors v. number of men authors), this list proves a point we’ve been making all along. Gender representation is not symbolic and it is not a gimmick. What The Guardian did with their 2016 book list was two-fold: they achieved gender balance in both the books recommended and the list of readers making the recommendations. Among the 170 titles on the list, 47% were written by women authors. What is perhaps even more notable is the fact that this fairly balanced list came from a roster of readers that was itself pretty balanced, including 55% women among its 49.

Which is to say: diversity and balanced representation does not happen by accident.

It happens by careful and intentional design. The Guardian has shown us precisely how to do it. Not sold? Let’s make this point another way:

There were 22 men among the 49 recommenders. Of those 22, 14 listed books by women authors less than 33% of the time, and 3 listed book recommendations with no women at all. If we look at The Guardian’s list without the recommendations by women, the list’s gender balance would drop from 47% to 35%.

While this is by no means a rigorous study, it is interesting to note how the numbers change when women’s contributions are left out. Had The Guardian enlisted only the men on their list to give recommendations, despite a number of them recommending majority women authors, the gender balance as a whole would have dropped significantly. Including women among the decision-makers produced increased gender balance in the final list. This is not a coincidence.

Make sure to include women in the decision process, plain and simple.

It has been shown time and again that women on corporate boards bring on more women, that women bosses result in a more diversified office, that the only way to truly achieve diversity is not by policy but by practice. The Guardian, without giving anyone a fixed quota, achieved gender balance among a list of 170 books. How? By making sure to include women in the decision process, plain and simple.


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The @guardian achieves gender balance in its 2016 Best Books list, TWICE! Welcome to #GenderAvenger Hall of Fame. http://www.genderavenger.com/blog/genderavenger-applauds-guardian-best-of-list