This year, VIDA also launched a separate report for women of color in the literary landscape.
The study analyzed bylines, gender of authors reviewed and gender of book reviewers in numerous publications. Some statistics were encouraging, showing how the gap has slowly started to close over the last five years, while some remained stagnant or even decreased.
Here’s a breakdown of some of the findings.
In terms of book reviewers, The New York Times has vastly improved over the last five years.
However, when it came to authors whose books were reviewed, the Times skewed heavily male, with 358 female authors versus 504 male authors.
Bylines by female writers have only improved marginally over five years at The New Yorker, VIDA shows. There were 193 female writers compared to 457 male writers in 2014, according to the above chart.
The Atlantic has drastically aimed to close the gap in 2014 for the number of female authors whose books were reviewed. In 2013, the number dipped to three, a pitiful comparison to 17 male authors.
VIDA rounded up some of the more positive changes, including:
- Harper’s Bazaar increasing its overall number of women by 6%.
- The New Republic increasing female book reviewers to 29%, compared to last year’s 7%.
- The Boston Review publishing more reviews and micro-reviews by women than men. Of the 31 micro-reviews, women wrote 71%.
Despite some of the improvements, there were also disappointing slips. The Paris Reviewdeclined from last year’s celebratory 51%, sliding to 40% women overall this year. The Nationalso showed a low level of improvement — women represented 20% of authors reviewed, and only 29% overall.
Women of color
Once specified to women of color, VIDA’s report showed a stark difference between men and women at these literary publications. In order to gather the data, VIDA emailed surveys to all the women who appeared in numerous publications, allowing them to self-identify their race. The findings showed an immense lack of diversity in the literary field.
“When women of color’s voices are missing from the public narrative, the insights and wisdom of a significant percentage of the population is wasted,” writes Jamia Wilson, the executive director of WAM! (Women, Action & the Media).
Let’s take a look at how pitiful some of the results were.
At The New York Times, white women dominated the publication. Black women totaled eight, Asian women 16 and Hispanic/Latina women totaled three, while four did not put a specific response (writing either “unsure” or only identifying as “woman of color”).
Poetry also leaned heavily toward white women. There were 13 women of color overall, less than half of the 35 white women accounted for.
By this point, it’s probably not shocking that the New Yorker also reported drastically low numbers. There were 56 white women compared to two Asian, three black, two Hispanic/Latina and five other (“unsure” or “identifies only as woman of color”) women.
The entirety of the report can be found here, though the majority of the women of color statistics are still disproportionately low compared to white women.
The future fight for equality
The literary community still has an incredible amount of work to be done if it wants to close the gender and diversity gap. To combat slow-moving publications, VIDA offers editors, publishers and literary fans numerous ways to “advance women’s writing.” Some of the advice for publications includes soliciting and commissioning writing by women, while also considering race, sexuality and other identity categories.
VIDA also advises readers to subscribe to magazines that publish women, cancel publications to magazines that don’t and write to editors and publishers, demanding more female representation.
Until that happens, the literary community will remain embarrassingly in the past in the fight for gender equality.
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