The New Yorker Gender Tally: 2017 Year In Review

 

Illustrator, writer, and Avenger Jessica Esch has been keeping an eye on gender balance over at The New Yorker since 2013. Early each year, we look forward to her annual recap of the magazine’s progress or lack thereof. We’ll just say that the road to equal representation has been rocky for editor David Remnick and team. Big thanks to Jessica for her continuing diligence and keeping the GA community informed! Read on to find out how The New Yorker fared in 2017.

 

 
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I started The New Yorker Gender Tally in 2013 by tracking two things: the gender of who submitted reader comments and who illustrated each cover. The reality that women drew only nine of the 47 covers in 2013 prompted my deeper look at the overall magazine in 2014.

Over time, I broadened the Gender Tally. Not only did I include more categories but I also started tracking the numbers in a spreadsheet. I learned not to read too much into gender swings by issue or by month. Years tell a story all their own.

Two sets of numbers are on all but the first Gender Tally of a given year. A total for the month is listed on top in red. The bottom number in gray represents year-to-date tallies. Women are always listed first. The third number represents work by studios, collaborations between men and women, or my inability to confirm a person’s gender.

After four years of looking at the trees, the forest is coming into view.

 
 image credit: Jessica Esch

image credit: Jessica Esch

 

Covers and Illustrations

Françoise Mouly has been the art editor since 1993.

Women claimed nine covers last year. This was three more than the previous year and six more than my first full Gender Tally in 2014. That might sound like reason to cheer, but there are 47 issues each year. Women created 19% of the 2017 covers.

Barry Blitt covered eight on his own and two men, Bruce Eric Kaplan and Kadir Nelson, had three. Malika Favre was the only woman to have more than one cover. She and seven other men had two covers.

Four covers placed in the top 10 in the American Society of Magazine Editors’ 12th Best Cover Contest, and two were by women: Abigail Gray Schwartz’s The March and Favre’s Coding 101. (The other two winners were David Plunkert’s Blowhard and Blitt’s Eustace Vladimirovich Tilley.)

More illustrations by women were published in 2017 (138 of 466), but the magazine included 19 fewer illustrations overall than 2016 (466 vs. 485). This is a windfall considering that only 49 illustrations by women were published in 2014 (49 of 304).

Spots are the series of illustrations spread throughout the magazine that accommodate page layout. They remain dominated by artists who are men. Only six of the 47 were by women. This is a return to 2015 levels (15%). Last year marked a short-lived increase to nine (19%).

Humor and Cartoons

Emma Allen has been the humor and cartoon editor since May 2017. She replaced Bob Mankoff.

The number of cartoons published in the magazine decreased once again in 2017. There were 54 fewer cartoons in 2017 (690) than 2015 (744). However, 2017 saw more cartoons by women (196 vs. 114 in 2016), and the percentage of cartoons by women nearly doubled as well (28% vs. 16% in 2016). This big swing stands out after three years of eerie consistency (16% in  2014, 15% in 2015 and 16% in 2016).

Roz Chast continued her reign as most published woman since I started counting in 2014. Her cartoons appeared in 37 issues and were often accompanied by a cartoon by Liana Finck, who was in 30 issues.

Last year also marked the first time to my knowledge that women created more than half of the published cartoons in a single issue. Eight of the 14 cartoons in the December 4 issue were by women.

The New Yorker has published 2,875 cartoons since the first issue of 2014. Less than 19% (533) were by women and 61% of those were by four women: Chast (117), Finck (88), Barbara Smaller (65) and Emily Flake (55). Lest you think this must reflect a shortage, 31 cartoonists who are women have been published in this timeframe, and seven of the 11 cartoonists added by Allen since May are women.

If you love the cartoons, Michael Maslin’s Ink Spill blog is a must read and great resource. Maslin is a cartoonist at The New Yorker.

The humor section, "Shouts and Murmurs," took another somber gender step backward in 2017. Women wrote 31% of the Shouts vs. 33% the year before and 47% in 2015.

Talk of the Town

Lizzie Widdicombe has been “Talk of the Town” editor since January 2013.

After gains in 2016, “Talk of the Town” lost a little ground in 2017. Lead articles are tracked separately. In 2017, 18 of the 47 lead articles were by women. This is down from 21 in 2016 but consistent with 2015 and 2014 results (18 and 17, respectively). The non-lead pieces by women in 2017 are also down slightly from last year (61 vs. 68 in 2016); however, this is still more than 2015 and 2014 (55 and 53, respectively).

Features

Dorothy Wickenden has been the executive editor since 1996.

Features, or the main articles, remained relatively consistent over the last three years (37% in 2017 vs. 38% in 2016 and 36% in 2015.) In fact, 70 features by women were published in each of those years. This marked a percentage increase from 2014 (33%) but represented seven fewer articles overall.

Poetry, Fiction, and Briefly Noted

Three areas have women in the majority in 2017: Poetry (54%), Fiction (53%) and Briefly Noted (51%).

Kevin Young replaced Paul Muldoon as the poetry editor in 2017. For the second year, women penned 50 poems (out of 93 in 2017 and 92 in 2016). This is up from 44% in 2015, the first year I tracked this category.

Deborah Treisman has been the fiction editor since 2002. Published short stories by women have increased from 42% in 2016.

2017 also marked the first year for looking at who translates the books reviewed in the “Briefly Noted” section. Ten of the 29 books were translated solely by women. Four additional books were joint projects of both women and men.

Conclusions

David Remnick has been editor of The New Yorker since 1998. The magazine is his forest. While women’s representation has increased in some parts of the forest over time, it remains overpopulated with men. Progress can be made, but it requires attention and vigilance. We’re counting on it.

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Jessica Esch is a writer and illustrator who lives in Portland, Maine. Follow her on Twitter at @jesch30.


Talk to the editors at The New Yorker:

Only 19% of @NewYorker covers were illustrated by women in 2017. Let’s see that number go UP in 2018, @francoisemouly! Via @jesch30 #GenderAvenger https://www.genderavenger.com/blog/new-yorker-gender-tally-2017-jessica-esch

Big improvement in the number of @NewYorker cartoons by women in 2017, but 28% is still not enough, @emmaEWallen. Via @jesch30 #GenderAvenger https://www.genderavenger.com/blog/new-yorker-gender-tally-2017-jessica-esch

Kudos to @Deardarkness & Deborah Treisman of @NYerFiction for ensuring that women poets & fiction writers were prominently featured throughout @NewYorker in 2017. Via @jesch30 #GenderAvenger https://www.genderavenger.com/blog/new-yorker-gender-tally-2017-jessica-esch