VIDA, Gender Parity, and The Southern Review

February 9, 2011 § 7 Comments

The Southern Review‘s Editor Jeanne Leiby took note of VIDA’s recent count of male and female writers in the big magazines and decided to answer the question everyone has been asking since: is the gap due to editorial bias or lack of submission parity?  Leiby and her staff looked at the past eleven issues and compared the gender split to TSR‘s submission records, then generously shared the results with this excellent blog post.

From Leiby:

I’m pleased with these numbers, but I still have more questions than I have answers. I want to know why there isn’t parity in the slush pile. Are there simply more men writing? Or are there more men submitting? I’m seeking a way to see the larger landscape, the whole industry, the biggest picture possible to give context to what we’ve discovered. What are the percentages of women and men in undergraduate and graduate creative writing programs? Is there a break occurring someplace in the chain? What is the ratio of male to female literary agents? What is the ratio of female to male editors? Publishers? Does the gender of the editor or publisher have a direct correlation to the work she publishes? Some of these statistics shouldn’t be too hard to come by, and gathering the numbers is an important first step. VIDA has shown us that there is a problem. Now what can we do to fix it?

For our part, Brevity‘s latest issue has eight male and ten female writers represented in the brief essay section, and the ratio of female to male writers goes even higher if we count our excellent craft and book review essays.  If anyone has some free time, and wants to count the last five or ten issues, send us the results and we’ll post them here.

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§ 7 Responses to VIDA, Gender Parity, and The Southern Review

  • Leslie McGrath says:

    Brevity, shouldn’t the count be your own responsibility? Presumably, you have the data.

  • brevity says:


    We are an all volunteer magazine — and so I am asking for volunteers. That seems fair, no? If no one steps up, I’ll do it when time allows.


  • Leslie McGrath says:

    Hi Dinty,

    Most literary magazines are now all volunteer, and if gender parity in terms of publication and staff is important to you, wouldn’t it be best done by staff, who have access to all the data? There are first names, like mine, which are not immediately gender specific. Your readers don’t have the breakdown of submissions by gender (which is basis upon which publication should be based.) Finally, if the “the count” comes from in-house, it’s more liable to hold weight with the staff, should there be an imbalance with which you’re not happy.

    FWIW, I think the world of Brevity and believe a count will find more gender parity than the literary magazine counted by VIDA.

  • brevity says:


    Yes, my post was certainly less than clear. Did not mean to imply this was not important to us, just that time is scarce right now. Still happy to have any volunteers who would like to count the _published_ authors in our last five issues. We’ll have to handle the submissions ratio on our end, of course. But thanks, Leslie, for keeping us honest.

  • […] Brevity also jumped into the discussion, with a concerned, but brief post about their most recent issue, raising again, more questions than answers to the issue of gender disparity. […]

  • megscottharris says:

    Thanks for posting this!

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