A slew of commentary, mostly thought-provoking, has come out of Paul Cornell’s declaration yesterday that he would, as a panelist at a convention, actively work towards achieving gender parity on panels he’s on, even if it required taking himself off of the panel. It’s a lovely gesture, but there are all sorts of complications in the details of implementing it and what it requires of women participating in genre.
One of these complications is that, on average, women are less likely to volunteer to be put on panels in the first place.
I can’t speak to panel volunteers, but I can speak to those who volunteer for Vector. The majority of articles which appear in Vector are commissioned. That means that I ask for them, or, more specifically, talk people into writing them.
A minority of the articles are blind submissions, already-written articles which are sent to Vector on the chance that it’s a suitable home for them. It often is. Vector isn’t that high profile, so it doesn’t receive all that many blind submissions – perhaps eight or so last year.
Every last blind submission I have received – and even, in addition to those, all the articles proposed, unwritten, without prior contact – were all sent or proposed by men.
This was my first year editing the magazine, so I can’t say if this is a necessarily a longer-term trend. I can say that this is consistent with what’s been reported by larger convention organizers, that men are more likely to put themselves forward, rather than waiting for an invitation.
Don’t get me wrong – I appreciate the blind submissions just as much as I appreciate all the people, regardless of gender, who have been willing to write for Vector by request. They all go into making the magazine’s features what they are. And some particular men may be in need of active recruitment, just as some particular women readily volunteer.
Part of the challenge of those working to improve the gender balance of participants, regardless of medium, can be in needing to be more pro-active in recruiting women, and the limited evidence of the blind submissions I’ve received is consistent with that tendency.