I belong to an organization called Sisters in Crime. In a recent newsletter that I received from them, I learned that they have volunteers who have been tracking the statistics for professional reviews of mystery novels by male authors versus female. The final numbers for 2009 are truly disconcerting. Approximately 67% of the reviews went to male writers, leaving just 33% of the reviews for female writers.
Sisters in Crime monitors 42 publications. Of those, only 3 gave more reviews to female mystery authors. These were the San Francisco Bay Area’s Contra Costa Times, the Annapolis Capital, and Romantic Times. Of the remaining 39 that slant toward male writers, some of the statistics are astounding. For instance, 100% of the mystery novels reviewed by Detroit Free Press were written by men. They didn’t review one female mystery author all year! The percentage of male authors reviewed in other leading publications include: Ellery Queen at 76%, Entertainment Weekly at 72%, the New Yorker at 75%, and the Washington Post at 79%.
Looking at these statistics, a person would be forgiven for assuming that there are simply more male mystery authors to review. This, however, is untrue. The split is almost even.
Why this huge discrepancy?
What these statistics didn’t tell me is, of the reviewers, what percentage is male? Do we have an innate preference for reading authors of our own gender? Are male authors simply more popular? Looking at my own collection, I seem to have no gender bias for authors.
Perhaps the publications’ owners are the ones who are biased. Do they choose the books or does the reviewer do that personally?
The male author bias baffles me. Any insight would be welcome.