Elissa Strauss, a blogger, actually asked the editors of major publications about the dearth of female bylines. Good for her. They said a variety of interesting things.
First, what Strauss thinks:
After reading their responses and having the opportunity to speak with some of them on the phone, it struck me that the byline gap would not be resolved simply by having more female editors, or seeking out more female writers. It would help, but it isn’t the whole picture.
To begin with, I believe that there just aren’t as many women aching to cover subjects like the economy and politics — and you have to want it bad to get a gig in today’s journalistic climate. I think women still stay away from certain subjects because of the macho, boys club atmosphere that surrounds them; I believe women — present company included — are generally more inclined to write cultural criticism and cover the arts.
A perhaps deeper issue is that we still live in a world where news itself is gendered, where matters like making and raising human beings, gender identity, sexuality, and childhood and adolescence are considered something for the ladies, while subjects like war and politics, which are more likely to be covered by male writers and reporters, hold the monopoly on general interest stories. But I also think both editors and reporters often lack imagination when it comes to the ties between culture and gender and politics and the economy, and that perhaps we would all benefit from a more holistic view of how the world works.
Lastly, I know these publications that I singled out for quotes are hardly the only publications at which women are poorly represented. I chose them not because they are the worst in terms of byline equity, but rather because they are places that I hold in highest esteem. As I said before, these magazines are the sources of some of the sharpest ideas and most erudite and enlightened thinkers around, which is why I think it matters so such that they have more female bylines on their pages:
David Remnick, from The New Yorker gets right to the point:
I read your piece, I read the piece in Slate by Meghan O’Rourke, who writes for us and was an editor here — and you are right. It’s certainly been a concern for a long time among the editors here, but we’ve got to do better — it’s as simple and as stark as that.
The rest of the responses are good too, Jonathan Chait from The New Republic, especially. Take a looksy.