A woman is way more likely than a man to pick up a book, but the literary world certainly doesn't reflect that. A new study shows that the gender gap is depressingly huge when it comes to published authors—and if women do get published, they're likely white.
VIDA, a group that seeks to point out gender issues in today's literary world, released its sixth annual report about the gender gap at major literary publications. The researchers analyzed the number of published pieces by women in 15 major literary publications and also ran a separate study featuring 23 smaller ones. They focused on book reviews, analyzing the genders of book reviewers and the authors being reviewed.
Many publications are making big efforts to close the gender gap, and VIDA notes they're "cautiously pleased" by large publications like Harper's and The New Republic, which have taken "baby steps" to close the gap. Sadly, very few publications have reached the 50-50 mark, but a few smaller publications like the Colorado Review, Crab Orchard, and the Gettysburg Review published more women than men in 2014. The Paris Review actually slipped last year, publishing a higher percentage of men than in 2013.
But the gap was a lot worse for women writers of color. For the first time, VIDA launched a report focusing specifically on women of color, who are vastly underrepresented in the field. The group emailed surveys to the women who were represented in 13 different publications and asked them to self-identify their race. Though the researchers note that not everyone responded to the survey, the results are still striking.
Here's the overall gender ratio for The New Yorker:
But here are the women included when you factor in race:
Here's the same thing for The Atlantic:
And then broken down by race:
VIDA isn't lobbying for a required gender or race ratio; the organization just wants readers and editors alike to be aware of this bias. "Over time what we hope for is a shift in consciousness," co-founder Erin Belieu told The Guardian. "We want editors, readers, and writers to be aware of their habits and open their mind to other voices, and we at VIDA do really think that is genuinely happening."
Just perhaps not quickly enough.
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