Newbery, Caldecott, and Printz by Gender

Elizabeth Bluemle - December 30, 2010

If there’s one thing writing this blog has shown me, it’s that I seem to enjoy collecting and aggregating and looking at lists of interesting and useful data. (I think it’s that whole illusion-of-order-in-a-chaotic-world impulse.)
Two big projects I’ve done for ShelfTalker have been inordinately satisfying: the Starred Review round-up I collect throughout each year (an updated, end-of-year, full 2010 list will be posted soon), and the continually updated World Full of Color library, highlighting more than 630 books that are not race-focused but feature main characters of color.
My most recent project has been the creation of an Excel spreadsheet of the Newbery, Caldecott, and Printz award and honor books and authors, including data on the gender of the authors. (I plan to do the same for the Coretta Scott King award and the Sibert award soon.) I would also have collected data on the ratios of Caucasian award winners to award winners of color, but that disproportion is not only depressingly obvious to even casual followers of these awards, but has been discussed in many other places.)
This effort started when I noticed that, while women have historically outnumbered men in the children’s literature field, the Caldecott medals show a reverse ratio: 47 gold medals have gone to 43 men, while 20 medals have gone to 16 women. The medals are deserved and the books distinguished. But can it really be the case that male artists are more than three times as talented as female artists? Do male artists take more risks than female artists and are rewarded accordingly? Or are men’s creative efforts taken more seriously than women’s? Does our society unconsciously/ subconsciously still value men’s work more than women’s? At conferences in even female-dominated fields, I notice that men are much more likely to be featured as keynote speakers and male panelists often outnumber female panelists 3:1 in the premiere sessions. The numbers made me curious.
So then I ran the Newbery numbers, and the results are tipped in the opposite direction. The majority of gold medals have gone to women—59 have gone to 55 women, while 28 have gone to 27 men. Of the honors: 65 men have won 87 Newbery honors, whereas 147 women have won 197 Newbery honors.
I’m not a statistician, and the only way numbers like this can really mean anything is to have more data: for instance, to know the actual numbers of male and female children’s book authors and illustrators published during each year of these awards, and then look at the ratios again. Still, in a world whose population is roughly 50/50 male and female, the discrepancies in these ratios says something about our field and its history, and I’m interesting in thinking about exactly what those somethings are.
Anyone have thoughts on the subject?
I’m going to do a summary by genre soon, too. Just need to track down a few more of the out-of-print books.
As for this year’s January 10 awards: good luck to all of the authors and artists hardly even daring to secretly cross their fingers hoping for an early-morning phone call a week from Monday! I can’t wait to see your names in lights. And for those of you with secret hopes who don’t get that phone call, try to remember that your fine work will find its grateful audience even without the shiny sticker.
Note about the numbers below: I have tried to be as accurate as possible in my tallies, making my lists directly from the ALA website and sorting the results and counting the winners and honors several times. (It also took quite a while to track down the genders of several of the earlier authors. Thank goodness for the internet, is all I have to say.) So I think the numbers are pretty spot-on, but I am a mere human, with limited spreadsheet capabilities, so I’m happy to hear about any discrepancies from other listmakers out there.
Out of 72 Caldecott Gold Medals:
47 have gone to 43 men
20 have gone to 16 women
5 have gone to 5 male/female pairs (all unique illustrator pairs)
Out of 226 Caldecott Honors:
138 have gone to 88 men
83 have gone to 53 women
5 have gone to 4 male/female pairs
Caldecott combined summary, out of 298 medals total:
191 have gone to 100 men (*note: some winners are also honor recipients)
102 have gone to 61 women (*ditto)
10 have gone to 6 male/female pairs
Out of 87 Newbery Gold Medals:
59 have gone to 55 women
28 have gone to 27 men
Out of 292 Newbery Honors:
197 have gone to 147 women
87 have gone to 65 men
5 have gone to 3 male-female co-author teams
1 has gone to a two-woman co-author team
1 has gone to a female author writing under a male pseudonym
1 has gone to a two-man co-author team
Newbery combined summary, out of 379 awards total:
256 have gone to 174 women (*note: some winners are also honor recipients)
115 have gone to 80 men (*ditto)
5 have gone to 3 male-female co-author teams
1 has gone to a two-woman co-author team
1 has gone to a female author writing under a male pseudonym
1 has gone to a two-man co-author team
Printz Award
Out of 11 Printz Gold Medals:
6 have gone to six women
5 have gone to five men
Out of 41 Printz honors:
23 honor medals have gone to 22 women
17 honor medals have gone to 15 men
1 honor medal has gone to an anthology with poems by authors of both sexes (female editor)
Printz combined summary, out of 52 awards total:
29 medals have gone to 28 women
22 medals have gone to 20 men
1 medal has gone to an anthology with poems by authors of both sexes (female editor)

7 thoughts on “Newbery, Caldecott, and Printz by Gender

  1. Harold Underdown

    I did a similar analysis of the Caldecott only for a presentation I gave maybe 10 years ago. Got similar results.
    I did some digging to see if the imbalance followed a similar imbalance in active practitioners, and it didn’t. Male illustrators were receiving *proportionally* more of the Caldecott Medals and Honors–and also of other honors, such as the NYT Best Illustrated Books. I think the reasons you suggest are part of it but I also found some other factors. Notably, Caldecotts tend to go to books for older children, not to the young end of the PB range. And men *tend* to illustrate at the older end of the range, women at the younger.
    Interesting topic, with a lot of ramifications to explore….

  2. christina tugeau

    this is MOST interesting! and Harold’s comment is too…about the type of books male and female artists tend to do. That would make sense to me as well…from what I’ve experienced as an artist agent. Thank you for your desire to show order in chaos! 🙂

  3. Kyra

    Thanks for your stats. Like you, I have been updating a spreadsheet for the Coretta Scott King Book Awards. I was curious about the number of repeat winners as well as the ratio of male/female winners.
    You can visit my blog, Black Threads in Kids Lit for the annual results based on the latest winners:
    The specific tag is – stats:
    Other factors for the CSK Awards, as well as the Newbery, Caldecott and Printz awards that I wonder if or how affect who wins includes: who are the judges/ratio male/female on the panel, are there people of color on the judging panel, how many judges have art/illustration backgrounds, who is the publisher (will a self-published book ever win?), and influence on retail success.
    Looking forward to the award annoucements!

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  5. Carol Baicker-McKee

    Wish I’d seen this before I wrote a recent blogpost after noticing that male illustrators had again swept the Caldecott Medal and Honors this year! How wonderful that you’re tracking all these figures. I will add a link to this article to my post.
    I did a similar analysis for the Caldecott and was just shocked at the disparity; I tend to think of children’s publishing as completely female-dominated. What really surprised me is that the trend has been increasing in favor of men when I’d have expected it to go the other way (women have won only 25% of the awards over the past 20 years versus more than 35% in the first 20 years). I was interested to see Harol Underdown’s age-group theory. You can read some of my speculation about causes of the gender gap in my post (as well as some very thoughtful hypotheses from other commenters):
    The big question is how can female illustrators reverse the trend…

  6. Kathryn Weber

    This site is fascinating!
    But the research I a looking for at this moment is a Excel or similar spread sheet of Caldecott Winners with info on the books.
    I am a preschool/Elem teacher and I need to catalog my favorite books. I also have other books awarded recognition for excellent that need listing.
    Iwould appreciate help on finding and downloading this information.
    Thank you, Kathryn Weber

  7. Gary TApley

    Would you be willing to share your spreadsheets? I was about to create one in order to allow my students to choose Caldecott honor and award books. It would save me a bit of time if you would share.
    Thanks either way!


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