Alex Dannemiller
Our Count

Yesterday VIDA released their count for 2013, which looks at the number of male and female contributors published in popular magazines, publishers, and literary journals. In charting the gender divide among publishers, VIDA does important work in highlighting an ongoing struggle that many women face when attempting to publish their work in mainstream outlets. After reading the article I was curious what Portland Review‘s numbers looked like, so I did some quick tallying based on our recent issues. I unfortunately don’t have the time this week to look further back into our archives, but I would like to do so sometime soon out of curiosity. A disclaimer: I am not a numbers person at all. So if you notice that any of my math is wrong please feel free to send a correction. Also I don’t know how to make fancy pie charts.

Some explanation: My overall count was of female and male contributors in total, this means visual artists and writers. My reason for not distinguishing between the two is due to the limitation of how I’m gathering the data (using the table of contents rather than flipping through the issues themselves) and because I’m more interested in the overall picture rather than just writers. Along with counting contributors I did another count of individual pieces themselves. My reasoning here was to test if there was a discrepancy in the number of pieces we take from men or women.

Here’s the breakdown:

Fall 2013
– 28 total authors
– 15 Women
– 13 Men
– 53% Women

– 35 pieces total
– 18 by Women
– 17 by Men
– 51% by Women

Summer 2013
– 19 total authors
– 13 Women
– 6 Men
– 68% Women

– 36 pieces total
– 25 by Women
– 11 by Men
– 69% by Women

Spring 2013
– 20 total authors
– 12 Women
– 8 Men
– 60% Women

– 33 pieces
– 22 by Women
– 11 by Men
– 66% by Women

Winter 2013
– 26 authors
– 14 Women
– 12 Men
– 54% Women

– 37 pieces
– 20 by Women
– 17 by Men
– 54% by Women

The results are pleasantly surprising in that we seem to have a decent track record of keeping our issues balanced, with perhaps a slight sway toward publishing more women. I can’t tell you if this is intentional or not because I wasn’t involved in past issues. However, for our Fall 2013 issue we were conscious of previous VIDA counts and this may have influenced some of our choices. That being said, our selection process is heavily dependent on the quality of the work itself and we attempt to eliminate any potential influence of a recognizable name or gender by setting up Submittable to hide personal information from our readers, making the reading “blind.” Solicitations we may send out obviously fall outside of that blindness.

Internally, it may be interesting to note that six of our eight editors are women and eleven out of twenty-one total readers are women. Whether this has any effect on the ratio of our contributors I can’t say, but I highly doubt it given our process and the rather balanced ratio seen in the numbers above. I include this information merely as an observation and hopefully as some encouragement to women looking to work with literary journals. The staff numbers may also be a reflection of the gender ratio within the programs many of us come from as well (MFA in Creative Writing and MA in Publishing, among others).

With our current staff I believe we’ll continue to do what we can to publish a number of female artists and writers. I hope this trend remains, or increases in work by female authors, for future issues and encourages other journals to do the same.