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How many people does it take to say that the gender inbalance in SF outlets is a problem before it's seriously acknowledged, and accepted, as a problem?

Reasons, blame, motives, agenda, solutions and reason aside.

When is it allowed to be just ... an issue?

When will we be able to get past that discussion and start looking deeper at the more interesting aspects of it?


Jan. 12th, 2009 02:50 am (UTC)
A couple of unconnected (?) comments.

(1) I gather you're focussing on 'big' markets, but some of the comments on these various posts have been from local male editors indicating their stats don't show a pro-male gender bias. So is it that the gender impediments aren't global, but are concentrated towards the high-profile markets like Asimov's, F&SF etc? (i.e. it's not that difficult for female authors to get a toe in the small-press door, but there's a pro-market glass ceiling?)

(2) On the subject of small press, ASIM might well provide a unique type of test case. Rotation of editors with each issue means that it might be possible to separate out any 'global' preference towards male or female authors from the different tendencies of male and female editors to pick stories by authors of like gender. Not sure how relevant this is, but it's a thought.

And having made the suggestion, it sort of seems churlish not to actually follow up with the sums ... but I haven't. If it's thought worthwhile, though, I probably could.
Jan. 12th, 2009 02:54 am (UTC)
More information makes the discussion more rigorous, Would be very interested in your numbers, if you have them.

The issue I haven't dealt with yet, but will, is that I suspect less fiction was published locally last year than in previous years. So whilst the slant may be less, the overall numbers means it's still hard to get published. Maybe.
Jan. 12th, 2009 02:56 am (UTC)
OK. Will get back to you on this.
Jan. 12th, 2009 04:09 am (UTC)
Some stats ...
Notwithstanding uncertainty about the percentage of female submitters, here's a summary of the ASIM results to date.

There've been 37 ASIM issues, 13 edited by males, 23 by females. (And before you ask, there's also an issue (#23) edited by a collaborative team of male and females - I've discounted this, but I don't think it's inclusion would change matters much).

With male editors, 26% of ASIM-published authors to date are female (33 of 127 authors)
With female editors, 41% of ASIM-published authors are female (100 of 242)
Ignoring editor gender, the percentage is 36%. (133 of 369)

So, yes, it looks like some editor-gender influence.

There's also an interesting chronological trend in the female-author percentage:

2002: 33%
2003: 41%
2004: 27%
2005: 29%
2006: 31%
2007: 38%
2008: 47%

Note that, although 2004 was apparently ASIM's most male-dominated year, there's a consistent trend in subsequent years of improving female presence. Is this because more women are submitting? I don't know. But it's not that 2004 was a male-editor year - four of the six issues were female-edited.

Anyway, them's the figures. Conclude from them what you will ...
Jan. 12th, 2009 04:14 am (UTC)
Re: Some stats ...
Eeee, as one of those female editors (actually two of those female editors, haha) it's really cool to see these stats.

With the co-editing team, was it really co-editing or, as sometimes has been known to happen, one of them selected the stories and someone else ended up coming in to do the editing part?
Re: Some stats ... - punktortoise - Jan. 12th, 2009 04:16 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: Some stats ... - capnoblivious - Jan. 12th, 2009 04:19 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: Some stats ... - girliejones - Jan. 12th, 2009 04:32 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: Some stats ... - capnoblivious - Jan. 12th, 2009 04:38 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: Some stats ... - girliejones - Jan. 12th, 2009 04:40 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: Some stats ... - punktortoise - Jan. 12th, 2009 04:38 am (UTC) - Expand
Jan. 12th, 2009 04:31 am (UTC)
Re: Some stats ...
thanks - very interesting!
Jan. 12th, 2009 03:28 am (UTC)
I did the figures for ASIM a few years back, possibly in the secnod year of publishing, maybe later. I don't have the figures on me now, but I seem to recall it worked about 1/3 female authors published and about 1/3 of submitters (based on first names) were female. Not a rigidly contacted test no, but the publishing M:F ratio was close to the submissions M:F ratio. (No idea what it is now, of course, I suspect both might be higher.)

Which brings up the side issue -- is the number of women being published in whatever venue low because the number of women submitting is low?
Jan. 12th, 2009 03:42 am (UTC)
That is an important issue, because it's pretty clear that this is a significant factor. The trouble is, whenever this argument comes up, the aspect about not enough women submitting ends up being used to squash all the other elements of the argument.

The fact is, there is a REASON that many women don't submit to certain venues. I think that the lack of female names in the TOCs turns many off in droves, because - like the readers - they suspect that their work is less likely to appeal to the editors.
Jan. 12th, 2009 03:55 am (UTC)
I think it's a more relevant issue. It's certainly more interesting (and less subjective) than arguing whether editors are showing a bias.
Jan. 12th, 2009 04:09 am (UTC)
It all ties in together. I know that as a submitting author, I am more likely to submit to a magazine with a) a female editor or b) strong representation of women in the TOC. I don't like to waste my time, and I assume those markets would be more likely to like my story - not publish me *because* I'm female but be more likely to relate to my stories. I feel excluded as a writer as well as a reader from those markets which don't do this.

But then my writing career was launched amid some pretty harsh criticism of me writing a blatantly "girly" fantasy book which won a prize named after an important male SF author, so... I kind of started out defensive about this stuff.
(no subject) - girliejones - Jan. 12th, 2009 04:29 am (UTC) - Expand
Jan. 12th, 2009 04:26 am (UTC)
And why is the number of women submitting low? That's a more interesting question to me.
Jan. 12th, 2009 05:18 am (UTC)
From someone completely unconnected with it all
The first principle, and the first thing that needs to be asked, it seems to me, is (A) "how many women are actively writing?"

Then we need to ask (B) "how many of these women are submitting?", with the corollary "what is this as a proportion of total submissions?"

Only once we know the answers to these can we move on to consider why women are less-than-equally represented in all published work.

For all we know, the answer to (A) may be "not many" and the answer to (B) might be "not many of the [not many]". If such was the case, then we shouldn't be too surprised that women are generally not reaching the 50% published mark. On the other hand, if we find that there are vast numbers of women writing but not submitting, then that needs to be looked at. Finally, if we find that vast numbers of women are both writing and submitting, then we should start to look for inherent gender biases on the part of editors and publishers.

Without knowing where the underlying problem is, we can't address it effectively. It would be a simple thing to demand a 50:50 split in publication, but if women only make up (for example) 30% of the writers and 20% of the submissions, then the "female" stories selected are more likely to not get in on the merits of the writing alone and therefore be inferior in quality, which would in the long run turn off the readership and destroy the business involved, which wouldn't help anyone.

Informed debate and decision making needs to be based on solid evidence from all points of the production line. You want a certain product - more female writing - but do you really know that the raw material - unpublished, unsubmitted work - exists?

(And I'm not a writer, reader or editor/publisher of short stories, just a neutral bystander)
Jan. 12th, 2009 05:30 am (UTC)
Re: From someone completely unconnected with it all
But the problem is there is no way to find out A so either we dismiss the whole discussion because we don't know, or we come at it from another angle.
Jan. 12th, 2009 05:23 am (UTC)
I agree wholeheartedly here. I find that more interesting overall than any possible bias in publication.

I'm going to be really interested to see the stats that come out of the work you're doing (and it sounds like a *lot* of work, too!). It'd be interesting to see if editors could add their submission stats as well.
(no subject) - girliejones - Jan. 12th, 2009 05:38 am (UTC) - Expand
Jan. 12th, 2009 07:28 am (UTC)
That is the interesting question, and the only one worth answering.

Once the question is raised, there are always people, essentially, trying to work out who is at fault, and desperately trying to prove it isn't *them* at fault. But if the problem was in an easily identifiable place like at the editorial end, it would also be easy to fix.

But if it turns out it the issue is about the number of women who submit, then the cause is something more fundamental, and harder to fix. Quite likely something about how science fiction is, for the most part, only read in certain societies with some fairly deep biases about what different sexes should be 'concerned' about.

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