Next month, on May 6th & 7th, the New Yorker is hosting a weekend event called The New Yorker Conference / 2012: Stories From The Near Future. It lasts a weekend, costs $1,200 and is already sold out. It bills itself as It will feature New Yorker writers and editors "introducing" the audience to "the minds that will make a difference in the coming years." It features 35 speakers, six of which are women.
It's only a tiny bit surprising that it's sold out — it is expensive, but this is New York and there are plenty of people with expense accounts and fat wallets, though of course a few great minds in the making will no doubt have to sit this one out. It's also only a tiny bit surprising that there are so few women on the bill. It is a wildly diverse slate Barry Diller, David Byrneand Craig Newmark will mix with Blue Hill chef Dan Barber and NYC dessert stylist Will Goldfarb plus London gallerist Hans UlrichObrist, Sims creator Will Wright, Newark mayor Cory Booker, and psychologist/happiness pioneer Jonathan Haidt. The featured women are architect Zaha Hadid, first female winner of the Pritzker Prize; Marianne Cusato, innovator of affordable housing who developed the "Katrina Cottage" as a low-cost alternative to FEMA shelters for use following Hurricane Katrina; and Nokia senior designer Younghee Jung, whose research focuses on the "social potential" of mobile technology, and who is doing some pretty cool stuff, by the sounds of it. Why is it even surprising at all? Just because it's so damn brazen to have such a wide-open slate and still have so few women. They've got a bartender for the Plaza Athénée, for God's sake. Yes yes, I'm sure his drinks are very tasty. But it does suggest a certain room for flexibility.
The above ratios are reflected, though a tad less egregiously, in the masthead participants. Above, the breakdown is 3/25 "great minds" on the slate; the staff members break down as 3/13 (the women are Larissa MacFarquhar, Susan Morrison and Judith Thurman; men include Remnick, Malcolm Gladwell, James Suriowiecki, Ken Auletta, Bill Buford, Jeffrey Toobin, architecture critic Paul Goldenberg, editorial director/books editor Henry Finder.
The lopsided slate has not gone unnoticed. Paddy Johnson, editor of arts blog Art Fag City noticed the uneven distribution on March 1st, and sent a letter to the New Yorker accordingly, following up with a phone call after she didn't hear anything. Later that day, according to her blog, Johson received a voicemail from New Yorker representative Sonya McNair who thanked her for her "enthusiam" and said that the New Yorker "[did] not discuss our editorial decision making process." Subsequently, by Johnson's count, the New Yorker added nine more men to the bill.
Hey, we wish we didn't notice this stuff; that is to say, we wish it wasn't there to be noticed. All of the people on the New Yorker conference bill are amazingly accomplished. All of them will have fascinating perspectives to offer for your $1,200 (non-refundable, non-transferable). But it's dispiriting and disappointing that almost all of them are men. 2012? New Yorker, you're clearly a few decades ahead of yourself.
New Yorker Conference 2012 [NewYorker.com]
The New Yorker Conference: New Speakers, The Same Problems [Art Fag City]
4.1:1 - Ratio of male to female writers published in the New Yorker [WomenTK]
Women Speakers for your Conferences [Personism]
(Big Hat Tip: Paddy.)