The New Yorker Gender Tally: 2018 Year in Review

The New Yorker Gender Tally looks at The New Yorker magazine contributors by gender. If you’re new to this project, it got fully underway in 2014, and here’s what you need to know:

  • Women are always listed first, followed by men. A third number is included for work by studios, collaborations between men and women, or my inability to confirm a person’s gender.

  • Gender is determined by name and/or pronoun use.

 
 

Takeaways

When it all adds up, gender representation in The New Yorker looks much better in 2018 than it did in 2014. Some areas improved steadily over time. Others gained ground and then lost it, only to win more back. Only one section of the magazine finished 2018 with a lower percentage than 2014: “The Mail” (33% vs 36% in 2014). Interestingly, this section was the very reason I created The New Yorker Gender Tally in the first place.

Read on for my analysis of each section.

Covers

Françoise Mouly has been the art editor since 1993.

Women logged nine covers in 2018. This was the same as 2017, but a far cry from the three covers by women in 2014. If you find yourself on the verge of cheering for this increase, please do so with context: women illustrated 19% of the 48 covers in 2018. The percentage was the same for 2017 with the caveat that there was one less issue.

Barry Blitt covered six issues on his own in 2018 while Mark Ulriksen and Kadir Nelson illustrated five and four, respectively. Roz Chast and Jenny Kroik were the only women with more than one cover. They and five other men had two covers each.

The magazine’s cover is so visible that it steals the mind as well as the eye. Last February, Kim O’Connor called out Mouly for having white artists depict people of color and men (mostly white) capturing significant milestones of women. It is important to acknowledge that who creates the content can be as important as the content itself.

2018 marked only the second time a black woman created a cover for the magazine. Loveis Wise’s illustration appeared on the June 4 & 11 double issue more than a decade after Kara Walker commemorated the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina (August 27, 2007 issue).

Illustrations

Christine Curry has been the illustration editor since 1983.

Once again, more illustrations by women were published in 2018 (34%, up from 30% last year). This percentage has increased every year since 2014 when I started keeping track. Note, though, that the total number of illustrations spiked in 2016 to 485. This is an important reminder not read too much into monthly or yearly swings.

Having noticed that more illustrations by women were in the front of the magazine, I tallied illustrations and photographs in “Goings On About Town” separately from those tied to the main articles and found an almost a perfect gender split (49%) for illustrations. Kudos to The New Yorker Senior Designer Deanna Donegan. Photographers in this section, however, did not fare as well (25%). Compare both to the gender breakdown of the illustrations and photographs accompanying main articles in 2018: 15% and 23%, respectively.

Lastly, “Spots” are the series of illustrations spread throughout the magazine that accommodate page layout. They remain a male bastion. 14 of the 62 Spots this year were illustrated by women (23%). There is much room for greater representation here, but keep hope: women illustrated only three Spots in 2014 (6%).

Photographs

Genevieve Fussell has been the senior photo editor since 2013.

Photographs were tallied for the first time in 2018 thanks to Daniella Zalcman and her Women Photograph project. Of the 207 photographs published, 55 were by women (27%) and two were collaborations between both men and women. Both collaborations appeared in the October 8 issue. Worth noting, only 16 of the 70 photos accompanying a feature story were by women.

Humor and Cartoons

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

Confession: the cartoon line-up is the first thing inside the magazine that I look at when new issues lands. For some reason, these tallies grate me the most. Last year marked Allen’s first full year at the helm, and I had high hopes.

While the numbers remain skewed in favor of men, Allen delivered more cartoons by women (252 vs 196 in 2017), and the percentage of cartoons by women increased as well (37% vs 28% in 2017). As noted above, Allen replaced Mankoff in May 2017. There was surely overlap during the transition, but I do not know how it impacted the cartoons selected. However, the impact of Allen’s involvement over the last two years stands out in light of the three years of eerie consistency that preceded her (16% in 2016, 15% in 2015 and 2014).

More reason for hope: the November 5 issue marked the second time that cartoons by women outnumbered men (6 of 11). There were also four issues where women and men were equally represented.

Cartoons by Roz Chast appeared in 41 of the year’s 48 issues. When a Chast cartoon was not included, she was either on the cover (twice) or had a full-page illustration (thrice). Only two issues lacked her signature style.

Three other women published 20 or more cartoons in 2018: Liana Finck (24), Pia Guerra (23), and Carolita Johnson (22). I do not track cartoons by men individually, but perhaps it is time to start.

The New Yorker published 2,085 cartoons between the first issue of 2016 and the last issue of 2018. Slightly more than a quarter were by women (562), and 69% of those were by five women: Chast (106), Finck (82), Emily Flake (43), Barbara Smaller (37), and Amy Hwang (36). Please do not be one of those who try to explain this gap as a shortage of women in the field. In 2018, 35 women had cartoons published in The New Yorker, and 8 of the 12 cartoonists added by Allen last year were women.

The humor section, “Shouts and Murmurs,” included more women in 2018 (17 out of 46 vs. 13 out of 42 in 2017). Aside from a spike to near equity in 2015 (47%), representation in this area has not eclipsed 40% over the last three years.

Talk of the Town

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

“Talk of the Town” gained ground in 2018. Lead articles are tracked separately. In 2018, 23 of the 48 lead articles were by women (48%). This is a welcome upswing from 2017 when 38% of installments were written by women (18 of 29). Even more uplifting, for the first time in the span of this tally, women wrote more non-lead pieces than men (97 of 191).

Features

Dorothy Wickenden has been the executive editor since 1996.

The gender balance of the features, or the main articles, increased to 42% in 2018 after remaining relatively the same over the previous three years (37% in 2017 vs 38% in 2016 and 36% in 2015.) Women wrote more features in 2018 as well (78 vs 70 each year for the last three years). Such consistency always gives me pause and spawns conspiracy theories about quotas.

Curiously, this 2018 high-water mark was only a notch above 2014 when women published 77 of the 239 main articles (32%). However, 54 more features were published that year compared to 2018. Given the magazine’s quality of writing, I ache a bit at the thought of missing out on all those good reads. (Know the reasoning behind this shift? Let me know.)

Fiction

Deborah Treisman has been the fiction editor since 2002.

Of the 51 short stories published in 2018, 22 were by women (43%). This is consistent with 2016 and 2015, but a dip from 2017 when women wrote 26 of the 49 short stories (53%).

“Briefly Noted” is near the back of each issue and contains four book reviews. It is one of my favorite sections. Not only do I discover new books to cram into the small reading windows not filled by my subscription to this magazine, but also women have had the upper hand there for the last two years (55% this year and a slim 51% in 2017). This section was added as a showcase to the 2016 tally because I needed a section to feel good about. That year, women wrote 87 of the 188 books reviewed (46%).

In 2018, I once again tallied translators of books in the “Briefly Noted” section. 12 of the 27 translated books were by women (44%). In 2017, 10 of the 29 translated books were completed solely by women. (Four additional books that year were joint projects by both women and men.)

Poetry

Kevin Young replaced Paul Muldoon as the poetry editor in 2017.

For the third year in a row, women wrote 54% of the poems published in The New Yorker. This is up from 44% in 2015, which was the first year tracking this category.


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