Minding the gender gap in literary publishing

Earlier this month, VIDA released The Count 2010, a breakdown of women’s representation in a number of literary publications. Though not comprehensive, the study casts a light on the wide gender gap in the industry, revealing — in easy to digest pie charts — who is getting published where. For example, 36 men had their books reviewed in The New Yorker last year, compared with only 9 women.  Harpers had reviews written by 6 women and 27 men.

In her insightful analysis for PBS.org, Jessa Crispin asks whether the disparity represents discrimination against female writers or if it’s simply a result of few women submitting their work. She conducted a modest survey of her own, and found amongst the editors she consulted a consistent awareness of the imbalance. One editor said he actively tries to address it, while another noted that men submit work to his publication almost twice as much as women. “There are as many, if not more, good women writers as there are men. But you have to work harder to get the women,” he said.

Crispin argues against quotas of any kind — “When people start to talk about quotas, the conversation gets condescending fast” — but others might say that editors who make an effort to publish women’s voices are better serving their readers. Katha Pollitt at Slate, meanwhile, acknowledges the idea that women submit less work for psychological reasons but also argues that hiring more female editors would address the problem. It’s a question with no easy answer, but the gender gap’s apparent pervasiveness demands more debate.

Posted on February 15, 2011 at 2:30 pm by editor · · Tagged with: , , , ,

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