The 2015 VIDA Count was released Wednesday and though the figures demonstrate small gains overall, the picture looks different for women of color, LGBTQ women and women with disabilities. VIDA dubbed this year “The Year of Intersectional Thinking,” focusing their report on the numbers of women in marginalized communities with bylines in literary and news publications.
Poetry, Granta and The Boston Review are very close to achieving gender parity. Poetry and Granta have 49% women contributors while The Boston Review has made a concerted effort to get to 46%, the highest percentage in six years of VIDA counting. Unfortunately for The Paris Review, where it once had a female majority at 51% in 2013, the latest count shows that those numbers have fallen to a low 34%. Similarly, The Atlantic also saw a decrease in women overall, hitting its lowest numbers in three years, with women making up only 30% of the publication.
The women of color count, which collected responses from women writers in 15 major publications, found that in 2015, The New Republic led the charge in commissioning pieces from women of color. Of the 47 bylines represented by women, 17 of those were from women of color. These figures are a significant improvement over the 2014 VIDA count which found only one byline from a woman of color in the magazine.
The count also features breakdowns by race and ethnicity. The New Republic leads in bylines from Asian women while The New York Times Book Review has the most bylines by Black/African-American and mixed-race or mixed-ethnicity respondents.
In terms of sexual orientation and identity, there were a couple of publications that achieved inclusivity across VIDA’s nine sexual identity categories. The report states, “The New Yorker Published women writers in all sexual identity categories, as did the Times Literary Supplement.” According to VIDA, “there was a noticeable absence of non-heterosexual writers [at the Atlantic].” They published “just one byline by a writer whose sexual identity is broad spectrum.”
For women with disabilities, the numbers look bleak. Out of the 15 publications surveyed, six did not publish bylines by women writers who self-identify as having a disability or being disabled. The six publications were The Atlantic, Harper’s, The Nation, New York Review of Books, Paris Review and Threepenny.
The VIDA count shows that women writers with disabilities are not being published as widely as women who identify as a racial minority or as LGBTQ. VIDA states, “Writers with disabilities and writers with impairments face obstacles and barriers that other women may not, and it is important to identify and acknowledge how these obstacles, including visibility, access and bias against them, make writing careers more challenging.”
In a statement attached to the study, Amy King, VIDA chair asks, “If the literary landscape is dominated by specific groups, how can we be healthy as a society and benefit from both our differences and commonalities? Isn’t one of literature’s effects to humanize populations beyond our own?” She goes on to write, “One of VIDA’s principles is to shine a light where some would rather not look. We hope that what is illuminated through this work moves everyone to ask for more.”