The XX Factor

The Dearth of Female Bylines: Editors Respond

After the organization VIDA released its list of the percentages of female bylines in thought-leader publications, the Forward ‘s Elissa Strauss decided to ask the editors of some of those publications about the gender disparity. (Read Meghan O’Rourke and Katha Pollitt’s responses to VIDA’s count in Slate .) Strauss received responses from The New Yorker ‘s David Remnick, Harper’s Ellen Rosenbush, the New York Review of Books ’ Robert Silver, and the New Republic ‘s Jonathan Chait.

Remnick was the most contrite. “It’s certainly been a concern for a long time among the editors here, but we’ve got to do better-it’s as simple and as stark as that,” he told Strauss. Rosenbush and Silver were somewhat less apologetic. Strauss herself offers the best solutions among them for how to raise the percentage of female bylines-editors and writers alike should have a more nuanced view of how stereotypically “male” and “female” subjects are interrelated:

We still live in a world where news itself is gendered, where matters like making and raising human beings, gender identity, sexuality, and childhood and adolescence are considered something for the ladies, while subjects like war and politics, which are more likely to be covered by male writers and reporters, hold the monopoly on general interest stories. But I also think both editors and reporters often lack imagination when it comes to the ties between culture and gender and politics and the economy, and that perhaps we would all benefit from a more holistic view of how the world works.