ATTN: WOMEN–PLEASE WRITE FOR US….Some readers have commented that it seems like Katha Pollitt and I are having two different conversations ? one about why women at the top aren’t as prominent as they should be (gender bias) and another about why so few women enter the field at all (self-selection). On that last point, it’s important ? as I’ve stressed ? to make a distinction between opinion and straight journalism. It doesn’t tell us much that men and women are now graduating from journalism school in equal numbers, because a) most opinion journalists don’t come from a j-school background, and b) the question is why some people build careers on offering their opinions instead of primarily going out and reporting stories.
I’m not sure what it proves to say that the gender imbalance in submissions doesn’t mean anything. Yes, Pollitt is right that a large percentage of the submissions we receive are essentially unusable. But we get good submissions, as well, and as a small publication, we rely more than others on good freelance work. If women aren’t sending us any articles or pitches, then it doesn’t matter that some of the male submissions are crappy ? men are going to dominate the pool of both good and bad writers who contact us.
Maybe women don’t submit their work to publications like mine because, as Pollitt suggests, they think they won’t get a fair hearing. Regrettably, the Monthly has ? particularly in the past ? not been as open to women as it should. That’s changing. I have to admit that I don’t have many of the complaints that my female colleagues at other publications do, in part because we’re such a small magazine that a shift of one or two people can entirely change the mood of the office, which has become much more female-friendly in recent months.
Part of an editor’s job should be to constantly scour other publications to look for good writers. We have precious little time as it is, but I try to set aside hours to do just that. But it steams me to think that the answer is for women to sit back and wait to receive hand-embossed invitations from us to please come write for our magazine. We need to do a better job of finding talented women, but they need to do a better job of letting us know they exist.
Or if, as I suspect, there simply aren’t gobs of women sitting around waiting to write opinion pieces, if only they’d be asked, we need to focus on recruiting women into the field. And that…wait for it…goes back to the problem of socialization.
On behalf of The Washington Monthly, I’m giving notice to every female writer out there: We are desperately interested in your proposed story ideas, article submissions, and getting your names in our Rolodexes. That doesn’t mean we’ll always run your pieces ? sometimes a women gets rejected because her story is no good, not because she’s a woman. But the same happens for men all the time. Have an idea? Want to run it by me? Email amysullivandc at gmail.com.