13 Fenella Greenfield on Andre Deutsch, Diana Athill and the lack of role models for women in publishing
Were you finding any role models within companies that you were working for?
No. Diana Athill at Andre Deutsch, she was the editor who discovered Jean Rhys, and Nicholas Bentley – and Marilyn French, obviously she must have brought her in. And she was being paid so little that the joke was she only had to bank her salary once a year. And he was wealthy. And the other thing was Andre’s office was huge, and it had these beautiful windows that overlooked Great Russell Street, wall to ceiling books and he had this fantastically huge leather desk, huge, huge, huge… She shared her office in the basement. There was no natural light.
How do you understand the psychology of that, of women accepting these terms of employment?
There’s no role model for you. You know, if that’s the most powerful woman in the company that you’re working for, is treated so appallingly. She’s bringing in all the money, so you’re sitting there as a woman who’s gone through a school where it’s like, well you can become a secretary and then you can get married and have children and never work again, and then you’re in this company where all the women are just a joke really and all the men are the big sexy highly-paid, big offices, famous. Until you’ve got women who are successful and running their own companies there’s nothing for the young women to look up to and aspire to.
And I always think, you known, if you’ve got a vision, or a dream about your future that feels achievable, then that’s very powerful. You’ve got to have something that feels achievable.