Fahrenheit Press (if you love mystery and crime, this is a great press) just tweeted a link to this post about submissions in which they muse on why 90% of their submissions are from men. The post includes this:
a) men put themselves forward to speak more
b) men say yes more when asked to speak
c) women are more likely to refuse to speak when asked
I can tell you why A-C are true in addition to the fact that women tend to believe they need to be better even when they already are. Way better. (Because, as we so often see, we HAVE to be better. We don’t often have the luxury of being mediocre.)
a. Because women pay a high price when they put themselves forward. Men do not pay that price. Women have long, hard experience with seeing men chosen over them even when we’re more competent and knowledgeable. That high price includes being called a bitch, everyone saying we talk too much, silent demerits from management and colleagues (she’s not a team player, she complains too much…) and dismissal of our words– often those words and ideas are repeated by men to great accolades. The fate of Kathy Sierra and Anita Sarkesian are two obvious examples. There are millions more. It’s also wrapped up in b.
b. Women don’t say yes as often because of a. The abuse can be horrific. For God’s sake, not even Clay Shirkey understands this. Instead, he criticizes his women grad students for not putting themselves in line for being dismissed, called names, and generally devalued from the start. The playing field is not level, and women are not judged by the same standard as men. Heaven help you if you’re a woman of color. (Names reveal this. Google reveals this.) Until men like Shirkey understand this, we HAVE to consider silence as a survival tactic.
c. Because we know what happens when we speak out. Why risk it? Frankly, when it’s a guy saying he wants to hear more from women, we’re so cynical from years of A and B that we don’t believe in what may actually be a good faith offer.
If you’re not getting submissions from women, it’s because you have to say more than “we want to hear from women.” You have to prove you mean it and that you’re doing your best to recognize that everything about publishing privileges the male.