Press Coverage

Few Female Bylines in Major Magazines

By Erin Siegal | March 6, 2012 

(Columbia Journalism Review) It’s appropriate that the red, the color of passion and anger, represents the female male slice of the pie in latest set of charts created by VIDA: Women in Literary Arts.* The infographics reveal an ugly, unchanging truth: in 2011, the number of articles published by women in top thought-leader magazines was significantly less than the number of articles published by men.


For those unfamiliar with “The Count,” as VIDA calls it, the numbers are shocking. At The Atlantic, women wrote 64 articles in 2011, while men wrote 184. The overall percentage of female bylines dropped 1.5 percent from last year, when the numbers were 52 to 158.

At The New Yorker, whose byline disparity was covered by CJR in 2005, men wrote 449 articles in 2010, while women wrote 163—or 26.63 percent of the total. In 2011, that percentage slid to 26.44 percent. At Harper’s, the number fell to 16.66 percent from 21 percent. Female bylines in the New York Review of Books comprised a mere 12.5 percent of the total in 2011, down from 14.6 percent in 2010. Women’s bylines in the London Review of Books dropped to 13.88 percent from 17.74 percent in 2010. The Boston Review also slipped from 34.96 percent to 31.41 percent. Even progressive magazines like The Nation aren’t gender-equal; in 2011, just 28.71 percent of Nation articles were written by women.*

Though a few outlets, like the New York Times Book Review and The New Republic, increased their female bylines, to 34.42 percent and 20.16 percent respectively, overall, in the past year, we’ve crawled backwards.

This is the second year that VIDA, a nonprofit group dedicated to promoting female writers, has researched and compiled information on bylines by gender. Last year, after its’ debut, “The Count” triggered a hailstorm of commentary, both on and off the web. Some blamed institutional sexism; others suggested that women simply needed to stop whining and start submitting more articles.

“The truth is, these numbers don’t lie,” VIDA member Amy King wrote in the original blog post last February. “It’s time to begin asking why the 2010 numbers don’t reflect those facts with any equity.” Hundreds of comments piled up beneath her post; mostly pingbacks from outlets ranging from Forbes to Ms. Magazine.

Elissa Straus, of The Sisterhood blog, took editors to task for the gruesome disparity. Strauss wrote to editors at The New Yorker, The New Republic, The New York Review of Books, Harper’s, and The Atlantic. All responded, except for The Atlantic. “It’s certainly been a concern for a long time among the editors here,” David Remnick told her. “But we’ve got to do better — it’s as simple and as stark as that.” Harper’s editor Ellen Rosenbush told Strauss that she tried to have at least one female writer in every issue. Editor Robert Silvers rattled off a list of women who had written for the New York Review of Books without mentioning his publication’s glaring gender discrepancy. The only editor to offer a thoughtful, in-depth response was Jonathan Chait of The New Republic, who ultimately chalked the inequity up to socialization.

Last week, VIDA released a statement in tandem with their findings for 2011. “…The publication numbers don’t look markedly different than last year’s,” they noted, couching their grim findings in apologetic-sounding optimism. VIDA said they believe “things are in the process of changing for the better.”

Are they really?

Since 2009, the Byline Blog, a part of the Op-Ed Project, has kept a “running tally” of the ratio of women in outlets including The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times and more. Their findings are similarly dismal.

Over at The American Prospect online, columnist E.J. Graff decried the fact that “time isn’t making significant changes,” and challenged women to stop talking and start doing. Ann Friedman, editor of Good magazine, began a popular Tumblr called Lady Journos. A few days ago, Friedman followed up on her 2006 article “The Byline Gender Gap” with a blog called “Promote Women: Use Your Network to Solve the Gender Gap.” It concluded with actionable bullet points.

“I first wrote about this issue in my column’s early days, like 14 or 15 years ago!” Nation writer Katha Pollitt told me via e-mail, after I asked women from the organization Journalism and Women Symposium (JAWS) to chime in. After last year’s VIDA charts came out, Pollitt published a piece in Slate assigning blame to both editors and the general lack of participation from men in conversations about byline equity.

“If you really want more women writers, get more women editors,” she wrote. “The phone works both ways, after all… It’s naive to think that the fact that most top editors are men isn’t part of the story.” With the gender gap sustaining its staggering girth, one can only imagine how wide the chasm is when it comes to racial equity in bylines. Who’s going to compile those figures?

I’d bet it won’t be the white male editors who currently sit at the top of the media food chain. Better luck next year, ladies.


Inside Fordham, "Through a Pilot Project, Fordham Cultivates its Public Intellectuals," By Janet Sassi, February 27, 2012

Through a Pilot Project, Fordham Cultivates its Public Intellectuals

By Janet Sassi | February 27, 2012

(Inside Fordham) Carina Ray, Ph.D., assistant professor of history, was a visiting scholar at Princeton University when she serendipitously crossed paths with Catherine Orenstein, a journalist and founder of the OpEd Project.

Orenstein shared statistics on public opinion voices in the media that painted a compelling story: at The New York Times, male authors write 68 percent of all op-eds; at the Washington Post it is
77 percent; and, at the online journal Salon, it’s 80 percent.

Princeton was about to become involved with the OpEd Project’s Public Voices Thought Leadership Program, a pilot project with universities to help increase the number of women’s and minority men’s voices on the op-ed pages of major publications and, thus, influence public thought on the issues of the day. Yale and Stanford Universities were also on board: was Fordham interested in joining?

“I seized the chance to bring it to our administration,” said Ray.

Thanks to support from Graduate School of Arts and Sciences Dean Nancy Busch, Fordham College at Rose Hill Dean Michael Latham, the Office of the Provost and others, the OpEd Public Voices program got underway at Fordham last October. The yearlong program is supporting the efforts of 20 members of the Fordham faculty to cultivate their public voices, place op-eds with major news markets, and to build relationships with editors for future pieces.

“Op-Eds are front-door forums for putting ideas out into the world,” said Orenstein, herself a frequent op-ed contributor to major news media. “They drive media and thought leadership at the highest levels.

“Statistically, women, including academic women, are far less likely than their male peers to submit their ideas to a public forum. So what is being cultivated—the ideas that are shaping the conversations of our age—is overwhelmingly white and male.”

As one of Fordham’s 20 Public Voices Fellows, Ray recently had her first major op-ed, “Gadaffi and the Mercenary Myth,” published in the Huffington Post. Ray’s success was soon shared with Greg Acevedo, Ph.D., associate professor of social work, whose essay on Puerto Rico, “Somehow . . . Someday!” appeared in HuffPo’s Latino Voices section in December.

A third success story is Christiana Peppard, Ph.D., assistant professor of theology and science, whose op-ed, “Spewing Forth,” was published in Catholic Moral Theology, and who has been invited to submit to Commonweal magazine.

The Public Voices program’s formula is simple: professional journalists are assigned to faculty as mentors, providing feedback and helping faculty reshape their research and ideas in a way that is accessible to news markets. Participants convene regularly for seminars throughout the year, and attend a monthly call-in conference with a high-profile journalist or editor who is an industry insider; in December, the featured guest was Jody Kantor, author of The Obamas (Penguin, 2012).

For Acevedo, whose mentor was New York Times journalist and author Abby Ellin, the process changed how he looked at the media, as several iterations were needed to find the right voice for his market.

“As faculty we have the gatekeepers of peer review and tenure,” said Acevedo, who wrote about a topic he feels strongly about—Puerto Rican statehood. “The media has its own gate-keeping. Evidence matters in both worlds, but there is a different way of presenting it for op-eds. It is still expert opinion but one doesn’t have to hide the passion.”

Fordham’s OpEd program is being administered through the Rose Hill campus’s Office of Research, headed by Faculty Development Director James Wilson. Since 2008, the office has been working vigorously to cultivate faculty research and to help shape research projects to garner external funding and prestigious publication. The OpEd program helps, he said.

“The skills that the OpEd sessions present for writing as a public intellectual dovetail with grant writing or putting together a proposal for a publisher,” he said. “Faculty learn to prioritize those aspects of their scholarship that emphasize how their research is both novel and relevant. That exercise helps them engage not just the public, but funders, publishers and their students as well.”

Wilson added that Fordham’s social justice mission and its commitment to faculty diversity should contribute highly to the missions of the OpEd project: to promote diversity of thought and to move new faces into the public forum and beyond.

“It is one thing if OpEd changes the ethnic and gender demographic of those voices that appear in public intellectual fora, but if those voices are still coming from faculty at the same handful of institutions, I’m not certain the conversation will have been enriched as much as it could be. As a Jesuit university and as an institution outside the Ivy League, Fordham is a valuable partner in OpEd’s efforts,” said Wilson.

For Ray, who has two more op-eds in circulation, the project is more than a chance to promote diverse points of view: it is a way to vitalize the role of higher education—particularly in the humanities.

“In this moment of time when people are questioning the utility of a liberal arts education, we cannot remain isolated,” she said. “We can position ourselves as people who can think critically about a range of issues, and show how the things we know relate to the pressing issues of the day.

“We owe it to ourselves to reach the wider public.”




Melissa Harris-Perry show at MSNBC breaks more than gender, race barrier

By Courtney Martin | February 24, 2012

(The Christian Science Monitor) While watching Melissa Harris-Perry debut her own show on MSNBC last weekend, I found myself reacting with a sort of battered awe: A woman of color, hosting a serious show on a serious cable-news channel? Another glass ceiling, shattered.

Ms. Harris-Perry is the first African American woman to ever solo-host a news and politics show on a major television outlet. But here’s another eureka coup: She’s a tenured professor of political science at Tulane University in New Orleans.

Her professorial credential is beyond unusual for a TV show host. It adds a welcome intellectual quality to a more diverse public conversation. In fact, her website advertises that – in addition to her show on Saturday and Sunday mornings – she will be teaching “Intro to African American Studies” and “America’s First Ladies” at Tulane this spring.

According to the Higher Education Research Institute, women make up less than 20 percent of tenured faculty at America’s colleges and universities. Women of color comprise only a miniscule 2.8 percent of tenured faculty.

Further, academic women on the whole are three times less likely to be a part of forums that constitute contemporary public debate, like op-ed pages at major online and print publications.

Katie Orenstein, founder of The Op-Ed Project, which aims to diversify public discourse, puts these numbers in context: “Academic institutions incubate knowledge – knowledge that has the power to change the world.”

In other words, professors’ express purpose, outside of educating the next generation to think critically and gain skills for being productive professionals and citizens, should be to harvest world-changing ideas.

It follows that the lack of diversity among professors is a problem, not just within the hallowed halls of higher education, but far beyond them. And when only 2.8 percent of a demographic that constitutes at least a quarter of Americans have the career security to think big thoughts, that’s an even bigger problem.

In part, this emerges from the kind of institutional and interpersonal sexism and racism that can be found in any sector.

But it also results from the structure and expectations of academe itself. “Publish or perish” is still the dominant thinking among professor-hopefuls – making highly specialized academic journals the only safe outlets for their labored-over research, insights, and original thoughts. [Editor's note: An earlier version incorrectly stated that Harris-Perry was denied tenure at Princeton University. She was not.]

Indeed, Harris-Perry told Jennifer Pozner, founder of Women in Media & News: “I am completely clear that hosting a television show will not win me any professorial points. One of my Twitter followers wrote ‘expect side eye in faculty club.’ ”

The threat of tattered collegiality, however, hasn’t stopped this professor pundit; before her new show, she co-hosted MSNBC’s The Rachel Maddow Show, gave high-profile public speeches all over the country, and gained a healthy Twitter following – now nearly 70,000 strong.

Harris-Perry is an anomaly. After a decade of academic hazing, even tenured professors often find it difficult to stick their necks out into the wider world of public debate. Traumatized by years of policing from all-powerful advisers, they end up policing their own written and oral communication. This process, made more painful by sexism and racism, causes many a brilliant professor to shrink from opportunities that might make them vulnerable to scrutiny.

In part, their reluctance is understandable at a time when too much of public debate is built on the shaky foundation of sound bites and shouting. And yet, it’s a case of chicken or egg with huge civic significance. If thoughtful, studied people don’t enter the fray, the quality and tenor of public debate won’t change.

That’s why watching Harris-Perry last weekend was so satisfying. In a lead-in to discuss recent birth-control hearings last week, she did a short “lecture” on the history of regulating the body and its relationship to privacy in US history.

She waxed poetic: “In the 17th century conditions of colonial America, it is likely that nearly 40 percent of infants died before their first birthdays. A nascent country in need of people to populate their frontier quickly began to see pregnant bodies as a public matter.”

Imagine most of the cable-news hosts setting the stage for a cantankerous debate with context like that. You can’t, because they wouldn’t, and herein lies the import of having public intellectuals like Harris-Perry taking over their rightful share of our airwaves.

The fruits of America’s institutions of higher learning need to ripen under the light of the real-world stage. It will make this country’s public debate more complex and contextualized, its policies more effective, and its citizens smarter.




Social or Cultural Entrepreneurship: An Argument for a New Distinction

By Courtney E. Martin and Lisa Witter | December 8. 2011

(Stanford Social Innovation Review) Cultural entrepreneurship is different than social entrepreneurship because it is primarily focused on reimagining social roles and motivating new behaviors.

 This past September, as Georgia inmate Troy Davis’ life hung in the balance, a coalition of anti-death penalty and criminal justice advocates across the United States joined forces to create the “I Am Troy Davis” meme, in which people sympathetic to what many saw as his abuse at the hands of the justice system tweeted and posted in solidarity on their Facebook and Google+ profiles. Although Troy Davis ultimately was executed, advocates argue that the effort sparked an expanded awareness of and renewed conversation about the death penalty.

Further north in Canada, a couple of fed-up young feminists in Toronto decided to take to the streets this spring after a police officer insinuated that a recent rape victim was “asking for it” because she wasn’t dressed appropriately. They dubbed their effort “Slutwalk,” in an attempt to reclaim the word “slut” and to make the no-holds barred argument that no woman—no matter what she’s wearing—deserves to be sexually assaulted. The idea caught fire, and to date over 70 SlutWalks have taken place around the world, including most major U.S. cities, Berlin, Cape Town, New Delhi, and Mexico City. Debate over the word “slut” and the future of the feminist movement has exploded from the blogosphere to The New York Times.

And perhaps the most hyped gathering of all, the Oct. 30, 2010 Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear on the Washington Mall, hosted by beloved Comedy Central duo Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, was attended by over 200,000 people. Though Stewart and Colbert’s approach was characteristically humorous, their message was dead serious: the tenor of our politics no longer reflects who we are as citizens.

All of these efforts—as disparate as they may seem—are pioneering what we believe is a new approach to social change: cultural entrepreneurship. Cultural entrepreneurs, who often rely heavily on new media tools such as Twitter and Kickstarter, use persuasive communications and peer influence to shift attitudes, beliefs, and behavior and, in doing so, change the world for the better.

Think of cultural entrepreneurship as social entrepreneurship’s little sister. Social entrepreneurship has gotten considerable attention in the last decade in terms of resources, investment, and analysis—and deservedly so. Some of the most exciting new innovations in social change are happening under the ever widening big tent movement of social entrepreneurship, fueled by organizations like Ashoka, Acumen Fund, and Echoing Green. David Bornstein, author of How to Change the World, has founded the blog Dowser that focuses on “solution journalism,” giving voice to innovators who pursue the much-coveted triple bottom line: people, planet, and profit.

As social entrepreneurship has come of age as a field, it’s become more and more apparent to us that a new distinction must be made between innovations that focus on changing markets and systems and those that change hearts and minds. Building on the work of entities like the Santa Fe, N.M.-based Global Center for Cultural Entrepreneurship, we argue that cultural entrepreneurship is different than social entrepreneurship, because it is focused primarily on reimagining social roles and motivating new behaviors—often working with and in popular culture to reach the widest possible audience. Social entrepreneurs solve problems by disrupting existing systems, as microfinance has, or through breakthrough product design, like the solar powered lights from d.light design or Barefoot Power. Cultural entrepreneurs, on the other hand, solve problems by disrupting belief systems—using television shows like Glee to initiate viewers into the disability or GLBTQ rights frameworks or the Twitter campaign #mensaythingstome, designed to expose anonymous misogyny online.

To be truly useful, these two types of entrepreneurship need not be thought of as mutually exclusive. Some social entrepreneurs can be cultural entrepreneurs and vice-a-versa., for example, has created a college loan lending system through online giving for students in the developing world. The nonprofit is proving that there is a market for other institutional lenders, and is increasing hope and supercharging educational expectations among people in these communities. The former is more of a market innovation; the latter is an affirmation of people’s potential.

Another recent example is the Girls Not Brides: Global Partnership to End Child Marriage. Much discussed at this year’s Clinton Global Initiative, the campaign is being championed by The Elders—an independent group of eminent global leaders, brought together by Nelson Mandela. Turns out that 10 million girls—that’s 25,000 a day—are married before they turn 18. Archbishop Desmond Tutu, one of The Elders, said that he is as committed to ending child marriage as he once was to ending Apartheid.

Advocates of Girls Not Brides know that child marriage can’t only be legislated away or solved through a product innovation. Laws can’t always be enforced in distant villages and, more importantly, they don’t change people’s hearts and minds. Lasting generational change is more likely to happen through authentic and locally led community engagement. Cultural entrepreneur Molly Melching, founder of Tostan and a Skoll Award for Social Entrepreneurship Fellow, does this in West Africa, where she works within existing cultural practices to help villages educate themselves on the dangers of child marriage and the benefits of delaying marriage—often using traditional dance. Molly and other people working on child marriage are confident that the tradition can end in one generation.

Of course, shifting cultural norms has always been an intrinsic part of social movements. If one looks at the ways in which the anti-war, civil rights, and feminist movements of the 1960s and 1970s functioned, it’s undeniable that culture, as much as politics, were at the center of those world-changing efforts. But as the globalization of media—old and new—has taken hold and our cultural consumption patterns have shifted so dramatically, so has the relationship between social change and culture.

The speed alone at which an issue can gain attention is baffling now that social media plays such a large part in our lives. Consider this example from August 2011: after an outraged young woman spotted a t-shirt aimed at tweens in her local J.C. Penny that read, “I’m too pretty to do homework so my brother has to do it for me,” she started an online petition on and the social media ball started rolling. Within just hours of the Twitter frenzy, J.C. Penny announced that it was pulling the shirts from every US store. Corporate accountability and consumer advocacy is taking a completely new shape, thanks to cultural entrepreneurs across the Internet.

Social innovators have recognized that without definitive cultural shifts, their market-based interventions can fail. Another example from an innovator that we both advise: Katie Orenstein, founder of The Op-Ed Project and an Echoing Green Fellow, who has been working to diversify public debate by urging more diverse voices to contribute opinion editorials to the nation’s newspapers. Orenstein recognized that she couldn’t just teach women and others habitually left out of the Wall Street Journal to write op-eds; she also needed to convince them that their knowledge and experience were significantly valuable. The surface challenge was ostensibly a supply and demand problem—how do you get more women and minorities to submit op-eds and speak out? But the larger context was a cultural conundrum. After painstaking trial and error, coaching thousands of women and minorities, Orenstein and her staff have created a curriculum that doesn’t just get people writing—it gets them thinking differently about themselves, their value, and their responsibility to the world.

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