Six years ago a small group of women made a bold move: creating the Stella Prize for women’s writing, in order to help combat the gender bias occurring in the literary world. The effects have been fast and far-reaching.
In establishing the Stella Prize – which reclaimed Stella ‘Miles’ Franklin’s first name – the founders aimed to celebrate Australian women’s contribution to literature and shine a light on all the talented female authors who were being overlooked.
Six years on, what has amazed us is how fast and far-reaching the effects have been.
Not only have women – obviously – won the Stella Prize for the past five years, they are now winning more prizes generally. The Miles Franklin Literary Award (established by a bequest in Stella Franklin’s will) had been won only 14 times by a woman in 55 years when Stella was founded. In the past 5 years, 4 of 5 winners have been women and 17 of the 25 shortlistees, with the first-ever all-female shortlist in 2013. Moreover this trend is evident across all major prizes. And women writers are being added to school curricula: the VCE English curriculum now has gender parity in terms of authors listed as opposed to 68.5 per cent of the books being by men back in 2014.
In any case, it’s all too long to wait. I encourage leaders in other areas – especially cultural ones – to consider bold interventions, as we did. The best time for action is always now.