A quarrel between friends as Ezra Klein and Dana Goldstein kick around the paucity of female pundits. Both make good points. Both, however, also concede the relevance of the (very true) fact that you see a lot more male interest (as reflected in, say, New York Times op-ed submissions or American Prospect job applications) in the field. I actually think this is a bit of a red herring. After all, when you’re talking about the highest levels of the professional the nature of the applicant pool doesn’t matter at all.
Nobody’s going to turn down a job as an op-ed columnist at the Times or the Washington Post and you’re talking about a universe of maybe two dozen genuinely elite pundit jobs from which you have the entire universe of professional writers (and, as the case of Paul Krugman attests, actually a somewhat wider universe) to choose from — Virginia Postrel instead of John Tierney, say. It’s at least plausible that there’s a real applicant-pool problem at lower levels, but not at the highest levels. And I’m certain that if women stopped being underrepresented at the highest levels, the applicant-pool would start evening out soon enough. After all, the paucity of women at the very top of the field — the most prominent portion of it — is naturally going to discourage people from thinking that they should seriously try to get their feet in the door.