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University of Missouri

Women Winning Pulitzer Prizes

Do women get their fair share of Pulitzers?

Yong Volz

Yong Volz studies female journalists. Photo by James Yates.

Yong Volz grew up in China, where Mao Zedong’s state feminism encouraged women to “hold up half the sky.” It wasn’t until she studied journalism in the United States that she became curious about Western gender disparities. Now an associate professor and a Reynolds Fellow of journalism at MU, Volz wondered what it takes for female journalists to reach their field’s highest level. Recently she published an article about gender disparities among winners of the Pulitzer Prize in Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly (Volume 90, No. 2).

Volz found that, of the 814 Pulitzer winners from 1917 to 2010, only 113 (13 percent) were women. All but two of those came after 1951.

Female winners were more likely to have majored in journalism in college, earned a graduate degree and grown up in a large metropolitan area where they became more adept at dealing with varied people and situations.

Since 1991, women have upped their percentage of Pulitzer Prizes to 26. But with women at 33 percent of newsroom staff, Volz says, the field is not yet level.