A year ago, prodded by a reader who wrote eloquently about how women were underrepresented on the letters page of The Times, we started the Women’s Project, aiming to correct that imbalance and better reflect the diversity in society. We committed ourselves to work toward a goal of gender parity and to report on our progress in February 2020.
We haven’t reached the goal line yet.
For the last year, we have tracked and entered into a spreadsheet the gender of every writer we’ve published on the daily letters page. As of today, the tally is 43 percent women, 57 percent men — numbers that have remained remarkably constant for several months. While we do not have exact data from previous years, we do know that there are now far more women on the page than in the past.
We have also done spot tallies of the much larger number of submissions. There the percentage (when a writer’s gender can be determined) is about 25 to 30 percent women, about the same as a year ago, before the project started.
There were consistent patterns: Politics, the economy and foreign affairs? The majority of submissions come from men. (Women represented just over a third of the published letters about politics.) Parenting, health, education and relationships? A larger percentage from women. (For more details about published letters, see below.**)
Interestingly, entries to our high school letter-writing contest last year were disproportionately from girls and young women, as reflected in our published responses. And when we asked readers to name the book that most influenced their lives, a significant majority of both submitted and published letters were from women.
Some of the results surprised us: Homages to stick-shift cars? We published letters from five women, and none from men. And we published a plea from 33 writers, all of them women, to stop using the term “quid pro quo” in the impeachment inquiry, in favor of the more explicit “bribery” or “extortion.”
Over all, though, we’re not satisfied yet. While there was a small uptick in letters from women right after we announced the project, we still sometimes find ourselves struggling to ensure that women’s voices are heard on a wide variety of topics.
At the project’s one-year mark, we’re reaffirming our commitment to working to reach gender parity. But what was reinforced by this project is that our letters pages are richer for this new collection of voices — and it compels us to broaden our efforts further, to ensure that we are publishing a range of letters from an even more diverse pool of writers going forward.
Still, we can’t do it without your help. After all, we can select letters only from among those you submit. So, as we wrote a year ago, “we want to urge women — and anyone else who feels underrepresented — to write in (here is a guide).”
Our email address is [email protected]. And our door is always open.
** These are some of the topics in which published letters since the start of the Women’s Project were predominantly from women: helicopter parenting; girls outpacing boys at school but not at work; when parents don’t vaccinate their children; college experiences; women without children; women traveling the world alone; widows and finances; end-of-life care; the American family and working mothers; the trauma from school shootings; President Trump’s appeal in rural America; how moms and dads divide the work; older women, not just about looks; abortion; women and the diet industry; separated at the border, at 4 months old; empty nest no more; home health aides; assisted living; menopause; miscarriage; abnormal sleep cycles; the story of two homeless children in New York; robots that provide health care; the cost of college textbooks; a soaring rate of suicides by the young; balancing being a surgeon and a mother; the lost art of listening; middle-class families in despair; a turning point in President Trump’s impeachment trial; the Senate’s vote to block impeachment witnesses; Nancy Pelosi and the State of the Union address; J. Lo at the Super Bowl, and body image.