Mind The Byline Gap

Screen shot 2013-08-01 at 10.16.24 AMThe glaring disparity between men and women writers contributing to large, influential media publications has reared its ugly head once again. But this time, we can watch along in real time.

Launched this week, Who Writes For The New York Times? tracks the bylines on the Times’ online front page, breaks down the writers by gender and refreshes every five minutes.

Andrew Briggs, the creator of WhoWritesFor (its common designation), credits his inspiration for the site to reading a 2011 study by literary organization VIDA: Women in Literary Arts. “The Count,” as it is called, annually charts gender disparities across media giants such as The Atlantic, Boston Review and Harper’s. From i’s beginnings in 2009 to its most recent 2012 report, VIDA has consistently found that men have more bylines, write more reviews and have more reviews written about their work than women do. Briggs explained his reaction to the study and his new site in an interview with The First Bound:

I think that was really the first time the idea of an imbalance in voice occurred to me. I don’t think [The New York Times has] deliberately imbalanced voices, but rather this is the kind of thing that happens when the people in charge aren’t really paying attention.

WhoWritesFor and VIDA targets prestigious publications like the Times in hopes of forcing transparency onto those highly regarded news and literature sources. Briggs hopes that seeing the up-to-date byline count will encourage a dialogue about decisions the media makes and how they affect the reading public:

There are systems in place that affect what we do, what we read, what we watch, and I think we have a responsibility to interrogate those systems.

The way it works is simple: Using a program called BeautifulSoup, WhoWritesFor pulls bylined stories from the opening page of NYTimes.com. The system then matches the bylines to a gender-by-name dictionary compiled from U.S. Census Bureau data by Bemmu. The names and article links are then posted side by side under the men/women daily count. Exclusively counting articles that appear on the front page is a deliberate choice, narrowing the focus of the count and recognizing the elevated and influential status of a front-page article.

The past two weeks have not been pretty for women writers, with the worst ratio reaching 35 men to just four women on June 23:

Screen shot 2013-08-01 at 10.45.02 AM

Briggs is the first to admit that no algorithm is perfect, and welcomes correction in the event of repeats or gender misrepresentations. Even with less than a week on the Internet under its belt, WhoWritesFor has already chronicled a staggering gender gap—but will the Times and other media outlets take note?

Top screen shot from the official count on WhoWritesFor the morning of August 1. Bottom graph courtesy of WhoWritesFor. For an interactive version, see the WhoWritesFor Archive.


  1. Bad as your numbers are in this article, the numbers of women in all roles in construction are flabbergasting.
    One in every 8 engineers is a women. one in every 33 trades people.


    Contact: Barbara Res 201-768-4184 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: July 18, 2013

    Barbara Res – the ORIGINAL APPRENTICE – Tells the Story of the Building of Trump Tower

    And Her Struggle as One of the First Women to Rise in the Construction Industry

    In her just published book, — ALL ALONE ON THE 68TH FLOOR: How One Woman changed the Face of Construction — a memoir, celebrity tell-all and construction primer, Barbara Res shares her experiences of being a female engineering student, being harassed, humiliated, intimidated and chased off construction sites by male workers, and of her eventual rise to Executive Vice-President of the Trump Organization. Res entered the rough and tumble world of construction after graduating in 1972 from City College of New York — one of only three women in an engineering class of 800.

    Construction remains a heavily male- dominated industry, but in 1972, it was a “no woman’s land”, and Res met resistance at every turn, in the form of discrimination, sexual harassment and intimidation. She was literally barred from the work site, a move that prevented her from advancing in her job. She quit several positions because of discrimination. Finally, she took a chance on a part-time position with a major construction company in NY that she parlayed into a fast-track for her career. After holding several “men’s jobs” in contracting, Res met Donald Trump, while working at the redevelopment of Grand Hyatt Hotel that Trump was doing. She impressed him and when he had a new ground-up project, he installed her as Executive in charge of Construction. The project was the world famous Trump Tower and the rest is history – a history filled with travail and triumph.

    All Alone on the 68th Floor tells the story of Res’s journey and what she endured and accomplished. It also describes the process of building in a way that entertains and instructs. The book is chock full of anecdotes about the rich and famous who lived and shopped at the luxurious Trump Tower and presents a picture of Donald and Ivana Trump as builders, that the world has yet to see. The author also talks about other projects, like the restoration of the Plaza Hotel and the development of the West side of Manhattan.

    But the essence of the book is frankly feminism. It is a call to women to be themselves and do whatever job they think they can do, whatever they want to do and not allow stereotypes to influence them. It is a rebuke to the notion that women need to think or act like men, stating to the contrary that there should be no norms to follow and that people should be individuals following their instincts and not allowing society to define who they are by what they do.

    Res, a licensed professional engineer and attorney, lives in New Jersey. She is married and has two grown children.

    Her book is available on Amazon.com and at https://www.createspace.com/4308756.

  2. Do the math on female boxers in the Olympics. In the 2012 Olympics in London, there were 36 elite amateur female boxers competing in three weight classes. There were 250 male boxers, in 10 weight classes. At the time with all of the media exposure, the AIBA President was very supportive to give women boxers more weight classes in the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. On July 25, 2013, the International Olympics Committee ( I.O.C.) determined that they again will only allow 36 females to compete in 2016, and again only three weight classes. Due to the discrimination of these elite female athletes in the sport, WBAN is currently petitioning the I.O.C. “encouraging them to support their own mission to treat female athletes equally. This issue has been a big blow to females in the sport.

  3. Rockerbabe says:

    I wonder, can this program be used to find out info on who writes TV and cable shows? Not to mention who writes most of those violent and male driven/dominated movies? I bet that info would go a long way to fixing some of the perception issues women face.

  4. This may explain why the universe is continually constructed in androcentric terms.

  5. This program is so fascinating. It’s so nice to hear about computer science used for the good of society.

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