Does Gender Bias in Publishing Actually Exist Here?

What’s happening from data driven, fact based perspective.

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Photo by Patrick Fore via Unsplash

Writing anything is like raising a child. You create something, take care of it, nurture it and and hope to God, when it comes time to send it out into the world, that the world will be kind it.

That doesn’t always happen.

Recently, there has been some discussion about the direction of this platform and its effect on writers.

It’s become a highly charged discussion about gender equality. I’m not really sure how that happened.

One train of thought has emerged that men have become the underdog and women are the chosen ones here. Obviously, as one would suspect, the majority of the riders on this train are men. The other train of thought is no more than the dismissal of the idea.

I’m not here to invalidate anyone’s feelings. Lord knows, as someone who frequently writes about equality, I have had my feelings and perspectives invalidated enough times to know it’s just not humane. If men justifiably feel slighted, they should be allowed that.

Still, when I heard the argument that female writers were set up for more success than men on Medium, I questioned it. It’s my nature.

It was perceived this inequity is due to a feminist slant on the platform toward promoting and curating a high volume of personal narrative, non-fiction articles in popular, female dominated topics: Self, Relationships, Sexuality…

I am as reasonable as I am passionate and curious as I am creative. I’m also wise enough to know not to comment on anything without doing a significant amount of research. And, damn it, I love data.

So, is this platform biased toward women and, therefore, men are left to be dolled out what we don’t take? We’ll see.

Popular on Medium Articles

To find some kind of answer I thought it would be best to look at the most popular current articles on Medium. I went through the first 75 articles displayed in the section.

These are fairly fresh, heavily promoted or featured, appear in various publications and have exceptional viewership. If there is a better sampling of what Medium is heavy into as an online publisher, I don’t know what that is.

Of the 75 top listed articles:

  • 49 were written by men
  • 24 were written by women
  • 2 were publications (The Atlantic and More on That)

The subject matter breaks down as follows:

  • 20 in Tech (18 by men; 2 by women)
  • 16 in Health and Science (14 by men; 2 by women)
  • 12 in Relationships (3 by men; 9 by women)
  • 12 in Self (5 by men; 6 by women; 1 by a publication)
  • 11 in Culture (5 by men; 5 by women; 1 by a publication)
  • 4 in Business and Marketing (4 by men; 0 by women)

If there is a slant toward women, I’m not seeing it here. What I’m seeing is that the heavy promotion, the big hitting pieces, the major views and claps go to men.

The idea that Medium has become a hot bed of true life stories of the struggles of women doesn’t match with what is popular.

Top Writer Status

The next thing I considered was whether this perception may be a matter of quantity of articles. Jessica Valenti doesn’t write often, but when she does, she does well. She holds one top writer tag and doesn’t even appear as a top writer in Feminism. She just doesn’t publish enough.

Being a top writer in a topic is a little hard to understand. I’m a top writer in Productivity. I still have no idea how that happened given how much time I spend looking for my missing car keys.

As far as I have been able to determine, and anyone can correct me if I am wrong, top writer status happens when you consistently write in a tag and you do pretty decent when you do.

I looked at the Popular on Medium section again, figured tags related to popular stories and visited Top Writer lists in those tags.

The number of men to women on these lists is interesting, as well. All Top Writer lists are 50 people deep:

  • Technology — 29 men vs. 5 women vs. 16 publications
  • Health — 17 men vs. 25 women vs. 8 publications
  • Science — 30 men vs. 5 women vs. 15 publications
  • Mental Health — 15 men vs. 33 women vs. 2 publications
  • Relationships — 11 men vs. 38 women vs. 1 publication
  • Self Improvement — 32 men vs. 18 women
  • Culture — 19 men vs. 22 women vs. 9 publications
  • Life Lessons — 26 men vs. 22 women vs. 2 publications
  • Business — 25 men vs. 12 women vs. 13 publications

That’s 204 male top writers to 180 female top writers. If women are outwriting men, I’m not seeing that either. I understand that there are some women raking in some serious dollars. They also write two to four times a day. I don’t think this is the rule, but the exception. Most of us simply can’t do that. Some of us just won’t.

Bottom line, on a website like this, we can skew our reality and our perception. You adjust who and what you follow. I see a lot of the same topics come up again and again. It’s because of who I follow and what tags, not because they are a Medium golden child writing in a golden topic.

TL;DR — I don’t agree that there is a gender bias against male writers due to a feminist slant toward personal narrative, non-fiction. Full stop.

Going back to the analogy that what we write is like our children, the reality is that everyone thinks their kid is amazing. We all know, for a fact, that some kids are assholes. What we write is no different. Some days, your kid is great, some days, you kid is an asshole.

We’re best off if we accept the fact that most times, it’s our own fault. You can’t blame someone else. You can’t point to someone else’s success and determine it the reason for your failure.

Written by

Flaming pinball, nerd, music lover, wine snob, horrible violin player. No, I won’t stop taking pictures of my drinks. vanessaltorre@gmail.com IG: vanessaltorre

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