Every year for the past four years, VIDA, an organization devoted to women in literary arts, has tallied the gender disparity in the publishing world. The VIDA Count, as the tally is called, includes the number of women featured as both authors and subjects in reviews and articles in a variety of literary publications.
The 2013 VIDA Count has just been released, and while it reveals some progress (The Paris Review for example, has shown major strides towards equality) , other major publications like The New Republic and The Atlantic remain startlingly behind. VIDA's list is an important reminder that despite what we may think and hope, "Women's writing continues to be disproportionately omitted from the pages of career-making journals."
Here are the most important takeaways from this year's count.
1. Small press publishers are killin' it.
For the first time ever this year, VIDA included small publishers like the Ninth Letter in their list. Ten out of the 39 publications it examined featured a higher representation of women than men, but the only major publication to do so was The Paris Review, which only barely eked by with a count of 48 women to 47 men represented overall. Small publishers like n+1 and New American Writing put some of their more famous counterparts to shame with their strong counts of majority female writers.
2. Book reviews are mostly by men, about men.
Review publications like the New York Review of Books and London Review of Books are not only publishing primarily male bylines, but they're also focusing heavily on male-written books to review. That's doubly bad.
3. Literary circles are still a major boys' club.
VIDA remarks that certain publications that are male-centric typically stay male-centric. The New York Review of Books, for instance, has been 80% male (a count including authors reviewed, book reviewers and bylines) for four years. As VIDA says, "We get it: you're mighty, unmovable giants."
In these historically male environments, it is even more difficult for women to break through. As VIDA writes, "I'll just call this corner of the globe, 'Dudeville,' which is far more polite than what Urban Dictionary would dub any closed circle of men enjoying their 'creative privileges.'"
4. The 'Paris Review' is stepping up it's game.
Now that's a good looking pie chart.
Between 2012 and 2013, something evidently clicked in the minds of the people behind The Paris Review. Last year, the publication came out with an overall score of 18 women to a huge 70 men. This year, the numbers are much more equal. There are 48 women to 47 men, and women are actually more represented than men in the category of fiction.
5. Editors have a responsibility towards equal promotion.
For four years, Poetry Magazine has consistently seen the most equal representation of men and women. Editor Don Share, who took over this summer, has been at the forefront of using his platform to promote women and their work on social media, urging readers to #readwomen2014.
VIDA publishes its count to raise awareness, and its publishers need to pay attention to whose work they are promoting in order to help turn the tide.
6. But it's our job, too.
We all have a hand in determining what work is promoted. It's our responsibility as readers to pay attention to who we are reading as well as the environments that different publications foster.
The VIDA Count is vital to helping readers understand which publications are supporting equality, and which are lagging behind. They write, "Support presses that support women writers. Cancel subscriptions to publications that have no real interest in women's voices." Let editors know that readers care, and this is unacceptable. Through our knowledge — not to mention, our dollars — we can promote and support equality in journalism.
You can view the rest of the charts along with a full write up of the results on VIDA's website.