Open Letter to Comic Publishers – Why Don’t You Hire Women?
DEAR COMIC PUBLISHER(S),
Within the past week, I received two announcements from one of the smaller but well-known comic book publishers welcoming three new hires to their ranks and all of them were white men. A publisher that’s been around for 25 years, despite having undergone some sweeping corporate changes, has shown they have stamina in this industry and bounced back strong after tough economic times. During the time when this particular company was founded, comics creators were having their rebirths as creator-owners and several jumped ship from the big corporations to launch their own businesses and follow their dreams with their friends. That’s laudable when you start out. But after 25 years, if you fail at diversity, you have a problem.
We’ve heard all the arguments: Women don’t apply. We need to hire the best candidate. The male applicants came with great recommendations.
How do you expect women to ever develop those professional relationships which would earn personal recommendations if you never extend yourself to network and hire them? I’m not an Affirmative Action expert. I did not take Women’s Studies in college nor do I have an MFA. I’m an observer, a podcaster, an indie writer, and a comic fan. I’ve become more aware about where I invest my time to promote the works of others and that includes checking out the social impact of a publisher. That also includes interviewing the creators your companies publish. No female employees on staff? Maybe 1-2 female indie creators out of the entire lineup? I can’t even begin to imagine your lack of representation and support of people who have diverse beliefs and anything other than cishet (usually white) males who are able to bring in projects from other perspectives and reach fanbases that aren’t reflections of your lily white male world.
As we saw with the Academy Award outrage, #OscarsSoWhite, Dear Comics – you have been under the diversity microscope for years. This issue has been so loudly discussed, it’s a wonder publishers are still missing the point. In 2014, there were attacks on women for daring to criticize comic book art that they didn’t like and challenge the traditions of costumes in sci-fi, fantasy, and superhero genres. People are asking for changes and few men in positions of power within this industry are actively doing anything; there are plenty claiming to be supportive, but the evidence is lacking.
Are you a hiring manager? Do you actually network with marginalized groups of people looking for work in your industry? Are you only celebrating the few women who have been successful by poaching them from other companies? Has your company embraced technology so that women who are interested can work remotely in case your ideal candidate is 3,000 miles away?
All it takes is doing an internet search on “why should my company hire women” and you’ll get all the documentation from economic experts explaining how different voices benefit product lines, offer ways to make the work environments friendlier, allow your company to show that you are not gatekeeping an entire industry, affect change in your marketing which probably leans towards misogyny when you don’t even realize it – and the list goes on. This article goes back to 2011 and points out that men need to practice what they preach – so if you are out there on comic con panels talking about how great women in the industry are, you better be hiring them AND paying them the same as you would a man. Besides practicing what you preach, that article also points out that women are probably using your product. In the case of comics and comic book merchandise where consumer numbers hover around 40% female, the stats are in favor of diversity and not your boys’ club.
Now, go back to Google and make another search for “women in comics” then narrow the results to the past week or past year. Is YOUR company anywhere in those results? No? You have a real problem.
Does your company publish comics with female and LGBT characters? Is there ANY merchandise for that audience to buy and show their support in other ways? If you can unquestionably state that you have titles with female or LGBT leads but no products, you’ll continue missing business to companies who do. Do you do your absolute best to get the creators of those titles to conventions in order to speak at panels and make new fans? Do you try to connect those creators with bloggers and podcasters for interviews? If the audience of a title includes a lot of female voices, your company has ample opportunity to meet more women and network.
There are already high profile columns like Janelle Asselin’s Hire This Woman at Comics Alliance and new comic superstars like Kate Leth discussing the importance of diversity and the fights against harassment and misogyny in the industry. There are countless feminist pop culture blogs and hashtags where the comic book community openly discusses successes and failures. Communities organically form like The LCS Valkyries to showcase women in comics retail where they get on Twitter and have meetups to discuss the comics, publishers and creators they are supporting. Are you even watching and absorbing their proclamations that women want to feel welcome in your industry?
These messages are not breaking through fast enough. Women have been in comics forever, often uncredited and without publicized honors. This is not news. At least it shouldn’t be news to you if you’re a publisher that’s been around for 25 years. We’ve made it to 2015 where we expect hoverboards and teleporters yet some publishers still don’t even hire women. Besides our lack of diversity in comics, we are forced to have “Women in Comics” and “Queer Comics” panels at conventions if we want any voice because these demographics are still othered. It’s just sad.
So, I’m letting you know that the next PR announcement about your new hire who isn’t someone new, exciting, and not from your cookie cutter mold will not get my congratulations on Twitter nor an press coverage at all.
A tired professional woman known as Amber Love