Second month sees decrease in female sources

We completed our second month’s worth of Gender Checks last week and the results showed a widening gap between male and female representation in news sites.

Our findings are close to being in line with other studies that have been done on gender representation in the news, and, though the results aren’t encouraging for women, they do tell us that our process seems to be working.

Before we fill you in on the results we’d like to remind our readers that this is just a single month’s worth of data from our simple Gender Checks. We hope you understand the limitations of this data, however telling. We’ve only sampled a few articles from eight news sites. Further research is needed to verify any validity across the board.

Feb. 21 – March 21, 2011

We reviewed 30 articles, two in each Gender Check. Each geographical region had four Gender Checks, with the exception of the South, which had three (We missed one week).

For each Gender Check, we looked at two websites — one associated with a newspaper and one that was online-only. We recorded information such as the gender of the author and the breakdown of the genders of the human sources referenced in the articles among other details.  (For more on what Gender Checks are, read our introductory post here.)

Overall, these were the findings:


The articles contained 99 male sources and 26 female sources, which put women at about 21 percent of the human sources referenced in these articles. This is a slightly lower percentage of female sources than the Global Media Monitoring Project found in 2010 — approximately 23 percent of the news subjects on the 84 websites monitored were women.

Here’s how it broke down by geographic region:

  • West: 23 males, 4 female (Women at 14.8 percent)
  • Northeast: 28 males, 3 females (Women at 9.6 percent)
  • Midwest: 39 males, 11 females (Women at 22 percent)
  • South: 9 male, 8 female (Women at 47 percent)

And, as an additional aspect we’re interested to study over time, here’s the breakdown by news sites associated with a traditional newspaper and those that are not.

  • Newspaper website: 41 males, 8 females (Women at 16.3 percent)
  • Online-only:  58 males, 18 females (Women at  23.6 percent)

As we did our Gender Checks this month, the context of sources is particularly useful in examining gender breakdown in sources. We focused on several stories that used government officials, or focused on traditionally male-dominated fields such as law or the financial sector.  It’s an aspect of this issue that we’ll continue to look at in the future. Also important to note is that a decreased number of sources makes for more dramatic data points.


Overall, 9 articles were written by an individual woman and 18 by a single man. In addition, two articles had a shared byline with a man and a woman.

Here’s a look by geographic region:

  • West: 1 by an individual woman, 6 by a man, 1 by a man and a woman (1 by contributors)
  • Northeast: 1 by a woman, 6 by a man
  • Midwest: 5 by a woman, 3 by men
  • South: 2 by a woman, 3 by men, 1 by a man and a woman

And, here’s the look by news website association:

  • Newspaper website: 7 by a woman, 5 by a man, 2 by a man and a woman
  • Online-only: 2 by a woman, 13 by a man

When looking at the gender gap in the authors, we’ll also need to keep in mind the make-up of the individual news website’s staff and who is on duty to publish to the web on the day we do our Gender Checks each week. Those factors could play a role in our final results and are elements we’ll be looking into in the future.

Check out how this data compares to last month’s Gender Report on sources and authorship.

We’ll be posting our results like this on a monthly and quarterly basis. As time goes by, we’ll be looking for other trends, including the subjects featured as lead articles on these news websites and what kind of correlation that may have to the gender of the author and the sources. We’ll also be seeking out and sharing the existing explanations on why we see the trends we do.

This is only the beginning of the data we hope to gather here at The Gender Report. Stay tuned for our weekly Gender Checks from each region. Additionally, we’ll be exploring other ways of looking at gender representation in the news in coming posts.

We’re also interested in your feedback. How are we doing? What information are you interested in when it comes to gender representations in online news? Share your thoughts in the comment section below or e-mail us at


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