Recently VIDA, Women in Literary Arts, began to survey the number of women and men published in major literary venues, to determine the state of gender balance in the business. The study is here.
They chose some of the recognized industry leaders, such as The New Yorker, Harpers, New York Review of Books, Granta and the Paris Review for their tally, and looked at percentages of authors published, book reviewers and authors reviewed. The results were not surprising. In all but one case, the number of men in each segment of the industry far surpassed the number of women. The conclusion? Men, as in virtually every other industry, dominate, and women must hurdle a wall of gender bias, consciously or unconsciously constructed, in order to be successful.
Fair enough. I don’t dispute the findings.
But of course such an unscientific study begs further investigation. So I have embarked on my own unscientific study. I have begun to survey the staffs of literary journals. My current database, which I have compiled over the last few years for the purpose of submissions, now contains nearly 300 entries.
For this survey I looked at the number of men and women on staff. I divided the look into senior staff, which includes editors in chief and genre (fiction, poetry, non-fiction … generally any editor with a specific title), and other staff, which covers associate and assistant editors, readers, and persons who appear to contribute in a literary capacity. I did not include production staff (such as graphic artists, proofreaders), or advisory editors (who generally do not contribute to day-to-day decisions about what gets published). I did not count names that could be either male or female. I used published information about editorial staffs from the journals’ web sites or most recent publications. Some journals list more of their staffs than others.
So far I’ve surveyed 40 publications that could be described as “independent.” I have yet to get to the list of university publications. The results:
Senior staff: 52.5% men; 47.5% women
Other staff: 36.4% men; 63.6% women
All staff: 42.0% men; 58.0% women
I won’t draw any conclusions yet, but maybe you can see where this is going. I’ll blog again with some further results.
For the record, I am an editor at the Los Angeles Review. In fact, I am the only male editor on a staff of six. Our publisher is also a woman.