Society of
Children's Book Writers
and Illustrators



By Lin Oliver

Author, Executive Director of SCBWI


First of all, I’d like to commend the #KidLitWomen for taking the month of March to participate in bold and honest conversations about the role of women in our industry. The fact that women are so prominent in our field yet are not getting their due of power, promotion, publicity, and pay is an issue that needs to be addressed and corrected. As Executive Director of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, I can warrant that our organization wants to participate in this conversation fully, to examine all our programs and attitudes, and to be at the forefront of action.

The well-researched and carefully-articulated article by Christine Taylor-Butler examining the recipients of the Caldecott Award was a sobering indication that gender inequality is real and measurable. As Ms. Taylor-Butler said, “The numbers don’t lie.” In the spirit of that statement, and total transparency, the SCBWI has undertaken a similar review of our data, and I would like to put those numbers forth here.

We looked at how women participate in SCBWI across several dimensions: leadership, grants and awards, and conference faculty.



  • The SCBWI Board of Advisors is comprised of 19 women and 9 men.
  • The full-time staff of SCBWI consists of 7 women and 3 men.
  • The volunteer regional team members, who conduct regional events in our 80 chapters domestically and internationally, consist of 149 women and 14 men.






The most well-known awards given by the SCBWI are the Golden Kites, a peer-judged award given in six categories: picture book text, picture book illustration, middle grade fiction, YA fiction, younger nonfiction, and older nonfiction. The Golden Kite Award was established in 1975. We analyzed the recipients of the Golden Kite Award since its inception according to gender with the following results.

  • There were 141 books that received the Golden Kite Award. Of these, 97 awards were to women (69%) and 44 were to men (31%).
  • It’s interesting to note, in the light of Christine Taylor-Butler’s Caldecott data, that the area where men were most represented was Picture Book Illustration. In this category, there have been 22 winners since 1997: 12 were women (55%), while 10 were men (45%).
  • In the Honor Book category, there were 143 total books named; 107 were by women (75%) and 36 were from men (25%).



  • This award, created in 2004, is given annually for excellence in the field of humor. A total of 14 awards have been given, 7 to women (50%) and 7 to men (50%).



  • Grand prize illustration portfolio winners are designated at the New York and Los Angeles showcases. The prize is an all-expense paid trip to New York and meetings with three art directors.   From 2009 to 2017, there have been 19 winners; 16 were women (84%), 3 were men (16%).



  • Each year, members vote on the Crystal Kite Award winning book for their region. One award is given in each of fifteen regions.   Since 2011, 108 Crystal Kites have been awarded to 92 women (85%) and 16 men (15%)



  • Established in 2013, this award is given for excellence in a self-published or independently-published book. There are 14 recipients in all.   Of those, 11 are women (79%) and 3 are men (21%).




The SCBWI gives out many grants during the year, which help launch and support new careers. The following list tallies the recipients of our many grants by gender.


  • WORK-IN-PROGRESS – From 1998 to 2017, the SCBWI has given out 110 Work-In-Progress grants in the categories of picture book, young adult, middle grade, chapter book/early reader, non-fiction, and multi-cultural fiction or non-fiction. To date, 110 Work-In-Progress grants have been given to 98 women (89%) and 12 men (11%).


  • KAREN AND PHIL CUSHMAN GRANT – Given to unpublished writers over the age of 50, four recipients have been named since 2013. Of those, all were women (100%).


  • ON-THE-VERGE EMERGING VOICES GRANT – Given to unpublished under-represented voices, there have been 13 recipients named since 2012. Of those, all were women (100%). (Notably, all were women of color.)


  • JANE YOLEN MID-LIST AWARD – Given to published authors who have not had a book under contract in five years, there have been six recipients since 2012. Of those, all were women (100%).    


  • BOOK LAUNCH AWARD -Established in 2011, this award provides a cash stipend to two people a year for marketing a new book. Since its inception, there are have 12 recipients: 11 women (92%) and 1 man (8%).






The SCBWI organizes two major international conferences per year, one held in Los Angeles in Summer and one held in New York in Winter. Intended for both published and pre-published members, and attracting approximately 1000 attendees each, the faculty of these conferences consists of authors, illustrators, agents, and editors who deliver keynotes, participate in panels, conduct classroom-style breakout sessions, and critique manuscripts and portfolios.

Since faculty positions are clearly considered prestigious, we decided to look at both the New York and Los Angeles conferences to analyze the distribution of male and female faculty. We did a simple tally of all faculty from 2011 to the present and found the following primary finding.

  • Since 2011, there have been a total of 1,433 speakers at our two major conferences. Of these, 1,013 (71%) were women, 420 were men (29%).

To zero in further on this data, we looked at the distribution of keynote speakers. Keynotes are defined as a single address by one person in a plenary session (what some might call “headliners”).

  • There were a total of 102 keynote speakers, 57 of whom were women (56%), 45 of whom were male (44%).

Next, we tallied the Keynote Panelists, defined as speakers on a mainstage panel addressing the plenary sessions. Very often, these panels consist of editors and agents.

  • There were a total of 234 presenters on the mainstage panels, 161 of whom were women (69%) and 73 of whom were male (31%).

Finally, we tallied the faculty members who conducted breakout sessions and intensives, defined as smaller group sessions, usually workshop or classroom style, on a specific topic. Breakout sessions often comprise a significant portion of a conference’s program.

  • Since 2011, there were a total of 1,097 faculty who conducted breakouts, 795 of whom were women (72%) and 302 of whom were men (31%).



Not all SCBWI regions run conferences, but we sampled 35 of our regions about their speaking faculty from 2011-2017. Given the time constraints for this article, many regions could not break down faculty by keynote, panelist, or breakout leader, but we did get the overall data of women to men ratio.


  • Over these 35 regions, there were 2,507 speaking positions, 2,038 of which were filled by women (81%) and 469 by men (19%).




Speaking on behalf of our national/international conferences which I organize, I would like to point out that faculty fees and honoraria vary somewhat from person to person, depending on the function a faculty member performs, the length of the talk, the level of expertise, and the audience she/he commands. There is no one standardized fee. However, women and men who do the same work and represent the same level of expertise, are paid equally. Parity of compensation is, and always has been, a foundational principle of SCBWI.

Let me also note here that in regard to the selection process for awards and grants, we do not consider gender an issue. Our awards and grants have been based on merit, and on the surface at least, do not seem to reflect an internal bias in favor of men.

In terms of faculty selection for conferences, however, great consideration is given by our conference organizers to a person’s gender and the diverse point of view she/he might bring to the faculty. All of our regional team members are encouraged to find new and diverse voices. We actively seek out representation from women and from people of color who can bring us a vision of a diverse world. Our history in the area of racial diversity is admittedly poor, and as our more recent conferences demonstrate, we are urgently striving to rectify this by seeking the talents of diverse speakers and contributors. We will do better in the future.



I’m hoping that the facts presented here show an organization dedicated to gender parity and promoting the work of women. Although we are proud of our record, it is not perfect. We are all too aware that gender parity is an issue throughout our industry. The perception of women’s worth is unquestionably undervalued. Much work remains to be done to change attitudes and to create equal opportunity. The SCBWI is dedicated to advocating for women and people of color and people with disabilities and people of a certain age. We hope to continue our role in examining these issues with fairness, passion, and your help.