Fancy Charts and Graphs Don’t Equal The Truth

Tim Hanley has released his monthly article, “Gendercrunching November 2015” over on BleedingCool. The post provides charts and graphs detailing the percentage of women working at comic book publishers including DC, Marvel, Boom! Studios, Dynamite, Valiant, and Archie. For each of the publishers, he breaks down the overall percentage of men to women. He goes on to further provide gender breakdowns for specific jobs such as cover artist, writer, penciller, inker, colorist, letterer, editor, and assistant editor. Hanley’s article has a number of issues, the first being his use of percentages instead of actual hard numbers; however, the more glaring problem is how he editorializes the information.

As some of the commenters on the article readily point out, Hanley uses percentages instead of numbers. This means when he makes a statement such as, “DC was at 9.8% female creators overall last November, so they’re up 4.1% since then,” it could mean only one or two women creators were added to cause or produce that change or it could be a much larger number. Or, it could even mean the number of women employed stayed constant while they hired more men. Without actual numbers stating how many women are employed at DC, it is really difficult to glean any information from his charts except that there seems to be a larger proportion of men working in the comic book industry than women.

Another problem arising with Hanley’s use of percentages is how he compares percentages across publishers at the end of his article. Publishers vary in size. For example, Boom! Studios’ percentage of employed women is 36.2%. Compare that to Marvel whose percentage is at 13.1%. Does this mean Boom! employs more women? Possibly, but highly unlikely. Marvel is a much larger publisher. It is quite likely that Marvel actually employs more women than Boom! despite their percentages being markedly different.

Now that we have examined how using percentages can be misleading, let’s look at the real problem with Hanley’s article: his editorializing. And, it is even more interesting because he explains his project over on his WordPress, “I’m not trying to call out publishers, or suggest they go start hiring women just to look better or anything. I’m just trying to provide numbers for something that we all know is anecdotally true.” However, in that same paragraph he continues, “The industry hasn’t created an environment where one should expect a fair number of female creators…it’s very much a boy’s club. And gender isn’t the only divide; it’s very much a white boy’s club too.”

In the same paragraph where Hanley states he isn’t interested in attempting to call out publishers, he goes on to criticize them for employing white males. The hypocrisy of his statement doesn’t end with this post; he interjects his commentary throughout the article detailing the percentages. When examining the DC data, he opines, “They’ve shown they can do better and are currently not doing so, which is disheartening.” He then goes on to hold up Boom! Studios as the cream of the crop, “Boom! continues to be the publisher to beat, by far.” Did you read that? “Boom! continues to be the publisher to beat, by far.” What happened to the guy who said, “I’m not trying to…suggest they go start hiring women just to look better or anything.” Because that is exactly what he is trying to do when he makes statements lauding a certain publisher’s percentage of women compared to others.

If it isn’t clear yet, Hanley’s whole purpose of putting out this column isn’t just to examine how many women are working in comics. No, his first sentence describing the project tells his true purpose, “Women account for half of all human beings on the planet, but in terms of making comic books they are seriously under-represented.” Now, I don’t want to put words in his mouth, but this statement to me means he believes that women should also make up at least half of the comic book industry jobs. The idea that this should be true is completely absurd.

Thomas Sowell has been examining a similar issue in the gender pay gap which we can use to draw similar conclusions to the absurdity of Hanley’s premise. In a Townhall piece, Sowell notes that the reasoning why men seemingly make more than women is due to a number of different factors. Some of those include the number of hours worked by men compared to women, the years of consecutive full-time employment of men compared to women, the types of occupations men take on compared to women, and the type of subjects men study compared to women.

This same logic can be applied to the comic book industry. Are there more men interested in writing and drawing comics than women? How many of each gender are applying for jobs with DC and Marvel or even the smaller publishers? How many of these men and women have attained comic book training at places like the Kubert School? What is the difference in experience level between men and women? What kind of stories do the men and women want to tell? Do these stories fit into the products the publishers are trying to market?

Tim Hanley needs to be honest with himself. He should either recant his objectivity which is anything but, or actually dig into some of the above questions to see if there is actually a real problem with the percentage of women working for comic book publishers.

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