Shrajah: The second day of the 10th Publishers Conference was held at the Expo Centre Sharjah ahead of the 39th Sharjah International Book Fair (SIBF).
Leading publishers from across the world convened to discuss the growing role of women and ways to improve their leadership in the global publishing industry. Sheikha Bodour bint Sultan Al Qasimi, Vice President, International Publishers Association (IPA), was in attendance.
Sharing their thoughts on, ‘Is it a woman’s world? Global women in publishing’ were a number of leaders in the publishing industry from Nigeria, Egypt, France and the US.
Azafi Omoluabi-Ogosi, CEO of Parresia Publishers Limited in Nigeria, explained that her independent publishing company was conceived in 2012 in Nigeria with the idea of giving a voice to young authors never published before. She said, “We were, therefore, not seen primarily as a female-led publishing company, but I am proud to see that more publishing companies headed by women are coming up across the country.”
She added: “In Nigeria, female publishers today dominate the relatively small-sized contemporary fiction segment while the larger educational publishing sector is male dominated.”
Hala Omar, owner and CEO of Dar Hala for Publishing & Distribution in Egypt, described how, despite her decades-long experience in the book industry, it was only when she first sold out her entire stock of 12 translated titles exhibited at the Sharjah International Book Fair several years ago that she began to gain wider recognition as a publisher. “I was the lone woman in the industry 30 years ago, but the SIBF experience and several awards made industry peers finally take my work seriously.”
Today, Dar Hala has 600 titles to its credit. She added. “I am proud that more women are entering Egypt’s book industry – whether as publishers or authors. Their increasing presence at book fairs and conferences are steering conversations on the need for diversity and ways to bridge the gender gap in this sector.”
Addressing the session virtually through Zoom was Judith Rosenszweig, foreign rights director of Gallimard Publishing in France. She said, “What is exemplary about the French publishing industry is that we have more than a dozen publishing companies created by women and named after women. One publisher was also made France’s Minister of Culture in 2017.”
Aspire for new career
She added: “What is disappointing is that despite these advances, less women are in top executive positions. I attribute this to education, and my advice is to fathers everywhere to educate their girls to aim high and aspire for new career heights and regard themselves as being just as competent as men.” Also joining virtually was Reagan Arthur, publisher and executive vice-president of Alfred A. Knopf in the US.
“I never felt that my gender held me back,” she said. “Today, with more women from other fields are entering the sector, it is widening our lens in publishing and I look forward to the creativity they will bring to this sector.”
Earlier in the day, the 10th Publisher’s Conference also saw award-winning Emirati author, Salha Obaid, in conversation with moderator Layla Al Wafi where she urged Western publishers to widen their scope and readership with translations of Arabic works.