Last week in the Guardian newspaper Kira Cochrane used statistics to demonstrate that British public life is conspicuously male dominated. Whether as contributors to newspapers or to radio and television discussion programmes - no matter what the subject - a dogged byline count over a period of several weeks revealed that at the most about one quarter of credits are women’s. Actually I'm surprised that the figure is even that large. In my own particular field, of book reviewing, the names both of critic and author are predominantly men’s. I'd made a similar complaint to a friend not long before reading this article, and when I was accused of exaggerating picked up at random the Sunday Times book review section. In the first few pages, that carry heavyweight reviews, no woman's name appeared as reviewer or author, and there were very few even on the frivolous pages devoted to children's books and genre fiction. Or take for example the magazine I write for (and admire, and enjoy) - The Literary Review. The index of the latest issue lists 49 reviews by men and 8 by women. 47 of the books are by male authors, 8 by female. Far worse is The London Review of Books – an almost female-free zone.
It doesn't give me any pleasure to point out these statistics, since I'm about to publish a book whose thesis is that women's lives have infinitely improved in nearly every way in the last 50 years. And I don't suspect newspaper and magazine editors of anti-feminism. After all, many of them are female. I think in the end that this disproportion is due to what seems to be a genuine sex difference. Very few women seem to be any good at singing their own praises or pitching for work. I'm probably typical in that if I offer some journalism, for example, and it's rejected, I shrink away to lick my wounds. I try to make myself believe that the rejection of my idea isn't necessarily a rejection of me and intellectually I know that's true . But like most women, I feel "he – or she - hates me." Most men on the other hand simply ring again the next day with a new idea. So although the disproportion is infuriating, I have to recognise that it is partly our own fault. We must either toughen up or give up.