Surprise, Surprise: There Are Very Few Women of Color on Magazine Covers

The cover girl. The first thing potential readers see, the right cover is an important sales tactic for any magazine. In search of answers, The Huffington Post looked at magazine covers that featured women from September 2012 to September 2013. What they found was upsetting, but perhaps not surprising.

More than three-quarters of cover girls were white, as opposed to women of color. Most mainstream women's magazines were included, and issues with more than one cover girl were left out.

Choice of cover girls doesn't seem to correlate with magazine content. For instance, Marie Claire runs commentary on sensitive racial issues but still comes in the bottom three. So who is the worst offender? Yup, it's sexy mag Maxim. Adolescent fashion mag Teen Vogue came in first, with a pretty outstanding 50/50 division between white women and women of color (pretty outstanding given Maxim's resounding zero women of color).

 MAGAZINE WHITE WOMEN  WOMEN OF COLOR   Teen Vogue 4 (50%) 4 (50%)   InStyle 5 (54.5%) 4 (45.4%)   Harper's Bazaar 7 (70%) 3 (30%)   Elle 9 (75%) 3 (25%)   Lucky 9 (75%) 3 (25%)   W 8 (80%) 2 (20%)   Women's Health 9 (81.8%) 2 (18.2%)   Self 10 (83.3%) 2 (16.7%)    Vanity Fair  10 (83.3%) 2 (16.7%)   Cosmo 11 (84.6%) 2 (15.4%)   Allure 11 (84.6%) 2 (15.4%)   Nylon 9 (90%) 1 (10%)   Shape 9 (90%) 1 (10%)   Glamour 11 (91.7%) 1 (8.3%)   Marie Claire 12 (92.3%) 1 (7.7%)   Maxim 12 (100%) 0 (0%)  

Magazines clearly need to tune in to their audiences, since cover girl diversity is almost always met with rejoicing. Kerry Washington landed the cover of the August issue of Vanity Fair, making a splash as the first African American woman to have the cover to herself in eight years. Eight years. Readers increasingly crave a real-world representation of all women not only in the pages but also on the covers of their favorite magazines. Editors, it's time to get real and bring your sales tactics up to date for the 21st century.

Graph and table: The Huffington Post

Image: Eva Rinaldi on Flickr