Brevity, All the Young Dudes, & the VIDA Count

February 14, 2011 § 5 Comments

We took the VIDA challenge and conducted our own count.  The result?  Well, if we have a gender imbalance, it seems to harm the dudes, not the ladies.  Over the last five issues, we’ve published 66 brief essays, and of these, 39 were written by female authors, and 27 by male authors.

For technical reasons (we recently switched from one submission management system to another) we couldn’t gender-test the submissions that resulted in those 66 acceptances, so instead we chose a contiguous block of 100 submissions from the last two months.  Of those, the mix was almost even: 52% female, 48% male.  Only a few submission were indeterminable: the name and cover note did not reveal gender.  We just didn’t count those.

If you are a scientist or statistician, you are likely horrified by our methodology right now, but we did our best.

So what can we conclude from this?  Do we have a bias that favors the female voice?  Do women compress better, writing sharper brief essays?

We’ll take that up at our next editorial retreat, but for now, thanks to VIDA for raising the questions and making us look inward.

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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