It's looking as if women will become even less relevant over the next five years, judging from the speaker lineup for the New Yorker's upcoming conference, "2012: Stories From the Near Future." As Eat the Press points out today, the innovative, forward-thinking folks slated for the weekend-long conference are disproportionately men. By my count, of the 37 speakers, six are women.
None of this is terribly surprising if you've ever flipped through an issue of the New Yorker. There are the cold-hard facts: Male writers are published in the magazine at a ratio of 4.1 to 1, for instance. Then, there's the general tone -- a natural result of the male-to-female byline disparity -- that sometimes flashes me to a smoking room at an upper-crust gentlemen's club with wildfowl lining the walls. Also, the neuroses of Roz Chast aside, New Yorker cartoons generally exhibit a fairly limited breadth: A man holding a briefcase/ riding the subway/ stuck on a deserted island/ swigging whiskey at a bar/ getting caught in bed with a woman other than his wife. (Says the New Yorker subscriber and satisfied owner of the magazine's desktop cartoon calendar.)
Unsurprising as it may be, there's no excuse for a speaker list dubbed "the minds that will make a difference in the coming years" that is 84 percent male. If this is how the folks at the New Yorker feel about the relevance of female thinkers in the coming years, maybe the near future will also bring a growth rather than a decline in that byline gap.