Just before The Spectator went to press yesterday, my colleague Emily Hill pointed out that I’d just taken away the only male name away from the cover: all seven of our coverlines were stories written by women. Did I really want that? I hadn’t thought about it until then, and for a while I did consider engaging in tokenism and slapping a man on for the sake of it. But why bother? Spectator readers don't really care about gender, just good writing.
The result is Ariane Sherine, who writes our cover story, hails as the first all-woman cover in The Spectator’s 188-year history. But this wasn’t a patronising attempt at a 'wimmin’s issue' or some similar wheeze. Our all-women cover wasn’t deliberate, it was just the way the cards fell. Each week we want to get the best writers on the most original topics: this week, they all happened to be women.
This morning, the Evening Standard called up asking if The Spectator was 'hoping to be the new Cosmopolitan'. Not quite. Cosmo might have run stories about bonkbuster novels, or the future of marriage. But it would not have had Isabel Hardman writing about the disaggregation of political parties, or Ysenda Maxtone Graham on the future of HS2. This week's cover has our usual Spectator mix: life, with all the fun things left in.
That’s not to say there’s no difference when it comes to getting hold of good writers. As Emily will tell you, women don’t put themselves forward as much as men. To get the full range of talent from all available writers can mean people like Emily going to great lengths to find and encourage new writers - like Ariane Sherine. As so often, Fleet Street follows up. As I write, two national newspapers are vying for the right to republish her cover story.
In fact, here at 22 Old Queen Street, the Spectator’s office, two-thirds of the staff are women. Not that we set out to recruit by gender: we want the very best people, and if they happen to be women then it’s not a problem (except for those trying to strike a gender balance at the table plan for our Christmas party). And I know what you’re thinking: the top, best-paid positions are probably all held by men. At our last head of department meeting, I looked across the boardroom table: there was Leah Herlihy, who has made our events operation the best of any British publication (Trump tickets here); Lucy Childs, our marketing and subscriptions director; Kemi Badenoch, our digital production manager (such a rising star that she’s now off to pursue a political career at the GLA); Melissa McAdden, our commercial director and Emily Glazebrook, who’ll be standing in for Melissa when she goes off to have her third child. (Melissa came back to a promotion each time she had the other two: now the only job left for her to take is Andrew Neil’s). And looking around that boardroom table, what jumps out is not the gender mix but the incredible quality of people that The Spectator has assembled.
The Spectator does not actively seek to promote the fairer sex. Both as a company - and on the cover of the magazine - we seek out the very best, in every field. With Spectator sales now at an all-time high (and rising fast) it’s a formula that seems to be working rather well.
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PS: I did wonder if we should have led on immigration, but Emily argued with such conviction for marriage that I relented. The last time she fought so hard for a cover that I wasn’t sure about it was the 'Don’t Panic!' issue, a text-only post-Brexit cover art directed by my colleague Danielle Wall. That is now looking to be our best-selling issue in about ten years.