They wrote: “Even before we received [Kimberly Probolus's] note, we’d wrestled with the fact that women have long been underrepresented on the letters page. By our rough estimate, women account for a quarter to a third of submissions …
This gender disparity problem is not unique to the letters page. Online comments on our articles and the unsolicited Op-Ed submissions we receive skew heavily male. Nor is this issue unique to The Times.”
To remedy this issues, they’ve committed themselves to publishing more women and are urging women to submit their pieces.
The problem exists beyond The NYTOpinion section and across op-ed sections in general.
For example, a small study conducted by Foreign Policy Interrupted examined the op-ed pages of four newspapers — The New York Times, TheWall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times and TheWashington Post — across three one-year periods that include 1999, 2006 and 2016.
Focusing on foreign policy and national security pieces, the study found, on average, 15% of pieces written for The Times were by women. The Washington Post’s section featured 19% of pieces by women; the Los Angeles Times and The Wall Street Journal showed just 13% was written by women.
Numbers improved through the decades, but women aren’t close to catching up.
Another recently released study by the Women’s Media Center investigated coverage for the top 28 news outlets. They found 69% of news wire bylines are by men and 60% of online news bylines are by men.
The Times appeared among the worst offenders across print, with just 41% of its news being written by women; on digital, women took only 33% of bylines.
The silencing of women is a result of many factors — biased management, sexism in the industry — but the numbers show the bare state of journalism for women.
The Opinion section editors note a 2011 article from Poynter addressing the lack of women’s voice on opinion pages, as well as the Op-Ed Project, which works “to increase the number of women thought leaders in key commentary forums to a tipping point.”
As for The Times Opinion section, Feyer and Mermelstein stated: "…we make our selections regardless of gender. But we are sensitive to gender imbalance, and as editors of a space dedicated to readers’ voices, we are determined to have it reflect more closely society as a whole.
Going forward, we’re committing ourselves to work toward a goal of parity on a weekly basis. We’ll report back on our progress in February 2020.”