On 23 November I posted a piece pointing to anti-male bias in the Costa Book Awards (2016). The judging panel for each of the five book categories consisted of two women and a man – a ‘coincidence’, claimed Costa. Righto. 14 of the 20 shortlisted writers were women, in line with the gender balance of the judging panels.
I posted an extract from the Times:
Sebastian Perry, whose nomination for Days Without End made him the only man in the best novel category, said that he did not believe there was any bias against men. “It’s just the way the dice fell this year. I’m not feeling remotely oppressed. In fact, I would feel infinitely safer if the entire thing was dominated by women.” [Good boy, Seb, Mistress is very pleased with you. Now beg to win the prize! Beg!!! Forget it – it’s not going to happen.]
Costa have just announced the award winners – the related Guardian piece is here – and it turns out my prediction about Perry was a poor one. He won the most important of the five awards, for best novel. His stomach-churning fawning towards women clearly hadn’t done his prospects any harm. So, how did the other winners pan out?
First novel – Francis Spufford
Biography – Keggie Carew (authoress)
Poetry – Alice Oswald
Children’s book – Brian Conaghan
The ratio of male:female winners was 3:2, a stark contrast with the 6:14 ratio of shortlisted writers.
Looked at another way, the likelihood of a shortlisted author (or poet) winning an award was 3/6 or 50%. The likelihood for a shortlisted authoress (or poetess) winning an award was 2/14 or 14%, less than a third of the men’s odds.
Now, what might explain this gender discrepancy? Why were shortlisted men more than three times as likely as shortlisted women to win awards? Doubtless feminists will have some whackadoodle theories which will be in tomorrow’s media, but my hunch is that the judges would have been under pressure to present awards to women, and over-representing women in the shortlists was simply one element in the effort to deliver the ‘right’ overall result, with women winning more awards than men. Oops. I expect they’ll get it ‘right’ next year.
If everyone who read this gave us just £1 – or even better, £1 monthly – we could change the world. Click here to make a difference. Thanks.