Women Don’t Win Literary Awards

And when they do, they're writing from the point of view of a male character

May 31, 2015 at 5:09 PM ET

Women win literary awards for fiction mostly when writing from a male perspective, novelist Nicola Griffith found after analyzing 15 years of book-length fiction awards.

The Pulitzer Prize epitomizes this trend. Out of the past 15 years of Pulitzer prize winners, zero were written from the point of view of a main female character. Commenting on this, Griffith wrote, “Women aren’t interesting, this result says. Women don’t count.”

Three Pulitzer prize winners were by women about men, three were by women about both, and eight—or more than half—were about men by men, Griffith found. This pattern was largely the same with the Man Booker Prize, the National Book Awards, the National Book Critics Circle Awards and the Hugo Award.

Only one prize really shone as bucking the trend: The Newbery Medal for American literature for children had more winners written by women from a woman’s perspective than any other award.

Women aren’t just underrepresented in literary awards, they are underrepresented as authors in general. The majority of most literary publications’ authors are male, and while some publications have made progress on parity in recent years, others are trailing behind.

In its newly released 2014 report, VIDA, an independent organization for women in literature, counted female authors in prominent literary and poetry magazines and found a sharp decline in female authors in the publications in studied, from 51 percent to 40 percent, from 2013 to 2014.

The Nation, Harper’s, the New York Review of Books and the London Review of Books were among those publications which did not give female authors nearly as many pages as men. On the other end of the spectrum, publications closer to parity were the literary magazines Granta and Tin House.