​VIDA Count of Women in Literary Journals Shows Remarkable Improvement

The organization VIDA makes it their job to annually count the number of female bylines and books written by women in U.S. literary magazines. While last year's count was pretty depressing, they feel that this year, there's room for hope.

For 2013, major publications like The Paris Review actually included slightly more women than men between their pages. "The Paris Review's numbers, previously among the worst in our VIDA Count, have metamorphosed from deep, male-dominated lopsidedness into a picture more closely resembling gender parity," notes VIDA. "While such progress is remarkable in one year, we are likewise pleased to note that we haven't heard anyone bemoan a drop in quality in The Paris Review's pages. Turnarounds like the Paris Review's make it clear that with the right editorial effort, putting more sustainable gender practices into action isn't too difficult for these magazines at the top of the major market heap."

In order to properly feature those who are doing it right, this year, VIDA counted smaller publications, seven of which actually featured more women than men. As a contrast however, there are many mainstream journals that are still lagging behind. The New Republic, for instance, had its worst year since VIDA began their count in 2009. Other publications didn't get worse, but they certainly stayed the same. The New York Review of Books has remained at roughly 80% male bylines and authors featured. That's not surprising; last year, the publication's editor Robert Silvers essentially dismissed the VIDA count via a form email he sent to anyone who contacted him with complaints.

VIDA is about accountability. They include the contact information for every editor on every pie chart so that concerned/celebratory readers can contact said editor and let them know their thoughts. They also caution that a bit of positive change isn't a reason to get complacent. "We've all heard that change is slow and steady, but I'm learning that's a false promise which also lies by omission," they write. "Change happens because individuals make it happen."

Image via VIDA