The gender gap in magazine bylines

8 March 2013

The VIDA count is out — and yet again, men authored 70% of the pieces in highly-respected literary publications.

Slide11Produced by an organization dedicated to encouraging women’s equal representation in the literary arts, this annual statistical breakdown traces the bylines in a number of publications (including the Times Literary Supplement, The Atlantic Magazine, and The Nation) and within several categories.

Congratulations are hereby offered to The Boston Review, and Poetry Magazine for getting close to equity, and to Tin House for realizing it. But then there are the rest, including a number of magazines I actually subscribe to:



A few years ago one of my favorite NPR programs, On The Media, did some soul searching on its own gender breakdown — when they ask experts to opine on questions, do they find a relatively equal number of male and female experts? The answer was a resounding no. I’ve long wondered whether they ever followed up on that question to see whether they’d changed their ways.

And yet these stats will likely produce little change. Someone out there is going to argue that men are better writers than women, or that male readers want to read male writers, or that men write about things that are awesome for everyone … of whatever. Jeez, it’s 10:30am and I’m already bone tired.


8 Responses to “The gender gap in magazine bylines”

  1. Servetus Says:

    Or there just are more male writers now, and we just need time for things to equalize. Like 120 years.

    • Didion Says:

      Right! or that women writers are always putting their careers on hold for babies and shopping and whatnot, and can’t be relied on for steady work.

  2. Very disheartening news to learn during women’s history month in the 21st century.

  3. fitzg Says:

    Plus ca change. Since the 1970s and the “Second Wave”. Incrementally, politically – creative arts? Barely.International Women’s Day today…

    • Didion Says:

      C’est vrai re: plus ca change.

      Still. If the feminists of the 1970s knew about these stats for 2013, they would never have stopped screaming.

  4. Aldine Says:

    The worst is the New York Review of Books. I used to subscribe until I got thoroughly disgusted, week after week, seeing how few books written by women got reviewed, and how few women got to write the reviews. it’s no better in the country where I’m from. And the excuses are always identical. One of my female colleagues was being interviewed by our most widely respected radio programs, and she asked why they didn’t tap more women to do radio interviews. “Oh we can’t get them to agree to come on the show” was the reply. Yet i’ve been working in the same place for ten years now. In that time, both of the men who work in my field have been invited on to this station numerous times (including to discuss topics I write and teach on, but they dont), yet I’ve never been contacted. Yeah, it’s all about my reluctance. Sigh.

    • Didion Says:


      Sometimes I wonder what I’d do if I were tapped to comment on a topic outside my field (as my male colleagues are, regularly). The fact is, I’d probably point the journalist in the right direction. Perhaps I need to change that attitude. Now, for the chance to appear as an expert on the subject.

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