The thing is, though, knowing these stats is only half the battle. Which is why, if we hope to promote gender equality (and, really, the better word for this is fairness, a baseline that ignores gender and instead focuses on the quality of what's being produced) in bylines and writing and throughout the rest of society in general, we have to talk about not only what is but also why. So along with blog posts and articles on the matter, there are panels. A recent one of these, “Throw Like A Girl: Pitching the Hell Out of Your Stories,” was held by an organization called Her Girl Friday, and brought together editors and journalists, most of them women, to talk about what exactly the problem is. Interestingly, they all seemed to agree that it's not purely based in sexism or gender bias. So what is it? "Fear of rejection" and "lack of confidence." How "womanly."
New York Times reporter Amy O'Leary, host of the panel, told the audience that male reporters, at least those she worked with when she was just starting out, simply weren't as paralyzed by the fear of rejection that plagued her—Jillian Keenan writes at Poynter that O'Leary said "her male counterparts would happily send off pitches they had written in a day." The one guy on the panel, Evan Ratliff of Atavist, added that male journalists tend to be innately entitled, which means they're tenacious, and don't give up pitching even when rejected; in contrast, he said, female journalists get a no from an editor and then are never heard from again. The OpEd Project's Katherine Lanpher also said that the byline imbalance is less about editorial bias and more about female journalists who "simply do not feel emboldened to express their opinions to the same degree as men."
As with much general advice targeted to females (and surely there are guy journalists who are crushed by rejections, too?), the rest of the conversation went over pitch guidelines good for any gender, like knowing your publication, spelling names correctly, and, basically, knowing how to pitch the right way—stories, not broad topics, was the consensus. All helpful advice, for anyone.
But let's get back to that confidence thing. If female journalists do indeed lack confidence compared to male ones (and this seems a point supported by anecdotal evidence rather than true facts), aren't we just blaming female journalists yet again for being...stereotypically female? The weaker sex, less tenacious, less strong, less able to persevere? These are problems women need to get over; they should act more like men to succeed, seems to be the message. But clearly there are plenty of female journalists who have succeeded and continue to do so. Was lack of confidence truly the one thing that they had to get over? And is being confident really where all these guys succeed and women fail? This feels oversimplified at best.