Stella strives for a community where the power and influence of writing and stories are not limited by gender, race, class, sexual orientation, disability or age. We believe that Australian women’s writing and stories play a powerful role in shaping our national values and beliefs, enriching the landscape of ideas in our democracy and empowering more people to contribute their hopes and experiences. Yet, global and Australian evidence shows that women’s voices continue to be marginalised in media, publishing and the arts, as well as more broadly in our culture. Book reviews introduce new readers to established authors and bring up-and-coming writers to the attention of booklovers. As a major driver of book sales, reviews are vital in the promotion and recognition of Australian women writers.
The annual Stella Count surveys 12 key Australian publications that review books, examining gender bias in authors, reviewers and literary genres. This data is an essential component of Stella’s evidence-based advocacy for Australian women writers. Since 2012, the Stella Count has profoundly influenced changes in reviewing practices and created a public accountability mechanism. Reviews of books written by women have increased from 40% of all reviews in 2012 to 49% in 2018, suggesting that the act of counting actively shifts the gender balance of literary journalism. However, progress is not linear; without constant attention, gender balance can be lost in the major publications.