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The Women's prize for fiction has achieved success and now has a counterpart for nonfiction, according to author Kate Mosse.

The Women’s prize for fiction has achieved success and now has a counterpart for nonfiction, according to author Kate Mosse.


In regards to the fight for gender equality, Gloria Steinem stated that it is not owned by a singular feminist or organization, but rather the collaborative efforts of all individuals who value human rights. As we strive to create a more equitable world for women, the important aspect is not to simply voice our grievances, but to take action.

During the same week as International Women’s Day, my personal effort to support gender equality, the Women’s Prize for Fiction, revealed its list of nominees, and this year we also introduced the first Women’s Prize for Nonfiction.

In 1996, I helped establish the Women’s prize after a prominent literary award released a shortlist in 1991 without any female authors, highlighting the growing issue of male-dominated recognition in the writing world. While judges have the right to choose what books best represent their prize, the problem was that no one seemed to notice or question the lack of female representation. As someone immersed in the publishing industry, along with others in bookselling, libraries, and journalism, we wondered how the response would have been different if the shortlist had been all women. This absence of female voices was seen as normal rather than a political statement. A closer look revealed that only 9% of authors shortlisted for major literary awards were women, despite women being responsible for 60% of published novels in the UK. Women were also receiving smaller advances for their work, even though their books were performing just as well, if not better, than those written by men. Additionally, novels by male authors were more likely to be reviewed. This was not a deliberate effort to exclude women, but rather a slow progression of change in the publishing industry.

Forming the Women’s prize for fiction proved to be a challenging task. As entrepreneurs, we had a vision, but we required – and still require – financial support. Thanks to our sponsors, partners, patrons, and donors, over the past 29 years, a whole generation of readers, writers, and publishers have been aware of the prize’s existence. The prize has played a vital role in increasing visibility and recognizing originality, accessibility, and excellence. Ultimately, it has contributed to promoting gender equality in the realm of literature.

Starting in the year 2024, we will not just be focusing on fiction. For the first time, we are pleased to announce that we will also be granting a Women’s prize for nonfiction, which was one of our goals for a long time. Our decision was driven by the same issue that often frustrated us – the unequal representation of women’s writing – that motivated us to start this prize in 1991. According to Nielsen Bookscan, in 2022, there were four weeks where all top 10 bestselling nonfiction hardbacks were written (or ghostwritten) by male authors, even though there were numerous exceptional books by women published during that time. These books covered a wide range of topics, such as science and nature, history, art and AI, travel and belonging, physics, and philosophy. After analyzing some data, we found that 75% of the nonfiction books reviewed in the British media were authored by men, despite there being an equal ratio of male-female writers.

The Women’s prize is now more important than ever, especially since we gained charity status six years ago. We strongly believe that women’s writing should be considered equal to men’s – neither more nor less. There is space for everyone. Throughout the past thirty years, I have advised both men and women on establishing their own competitions and prizes, each with their own guidelines and focus. Prizes hold significance as they bring well-written works to the attention of both women and men who will value them. We will continue to honor, promote, and involve ourselves as Margaret Atwood eloquently stated: “A single word has the power to change the world.”

The information about the nominees for the first-ever Women’s Nonfiction Prize for this year is available here.

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  • You can find the complete list of books for the 2024 Women’s Prize for Fiction at guardianbookshop.com. Additional fees may be incurred for delivery.

Source: theguardian.com