First quarter: Women are 24.6 percent of sources, 31 percent of authors

Women were represented as 24.6 percent of sources and 31 percent of authors in the first quarter of Gender Checks here at the Gender Report.

In our first three months of Gender Checks, we monitored two websites — one associated with a newspaper and one that was online-only — in four different geographic regions. We recorded information on 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.)

Before we share our findings, it’s important for our readers to understand that these results reflect a limited amount of data. We hope you understand the limitations of this when we’ve only sampled a few articles from eight news sites. Further research will be needed.


For sources, the results fall closely in line with other studies (like the Global Media Monitoring Project) that have pegged women at 24 percent of sources on traditional platforms and 23 percent of sources online, though the web part of that study was in its first year.

Of the geographic regions, the Northeast ( and ProPublica) had the lowest representation of women at 19.8 percent of sources. This region also had the highest source total overall. The South performed best for women at 32.8 percent, though we’ll note that we did miss a couple of weeks of Gender Checks there and that may have skewed our results.

Online-only sites had a slightly more equitable representation of women in their sources than those that are attached to traditional newspapers at 25.9 versus 23 percent as well as the most sources overall (Thanks in part to lengthy pieces by ProPublica and the St. Louis Beacon).


Authorship numbers, at an average of 31 percent of bylines going to women, are below what other studies have measured at traditional media. The latest American Society of News Editors reports that women make up 36.9 percent of those working full-time at U.S. daily newspapers. A separate global study by the International Women’s Media Foundation found that in positions that produce the news, women hold 36 percent of reporter jobs, or positions at the “junior professional level” and 41 percent of positions at the senior professional level, which includes anchors, senior writers and producers.

Our lower findings could reflect a difference in which reporters solely write for the web as well as which gender tends to write the stories about certain topics (crime and government in particular) that tend to appear as lead stories on news pages, from which we select our articles to monitor. We intend to explore this further in future posts.

The byline totals are still low when divided out among geographic regions, so it’s early to lean too heavily on those numbers. It’s looking like the Northeast has low representations of women in its bylines and the Midwest and South appear more equitable.

While online-only sites were better for women as sources, they were not when it came to giving them bylines. Women only had 19.1 percent of bylines in the first quarter of our study at these sites, while those sites connected to newspapers had a far more equitable representation at 45 percent. Again, this may reflect web writing staffs, and perhaps staffs at online-only sites lean male more so than those at newspaper sites. We’ll be looking at that breakdown in the near future as well.

To see how our findings broke out by month, see these related posts:

Below you’ll find the complete breakdown of our results from the first quarter.

First quarter: Jan. 18 – April 15, 2011

We reviewed 96 articles, two in each Gender Check. That amounts to 13 Gender Checks per geographical region, with one less in the Midwest and two less in the South.


The articles contained 334 male sources and 109 female sources, which put women at about 24.6 percent of the human sources referenced in these articles. (Not including those whose gender could not be identified)

Here’s how it broke down by geographic region:

  • West: 75 males, 31 female (Women at 29.2 percent)
  • Northeast: 130 males, 32 females (Women at 19.8 percent)
  • Midwest: 86 males, 25 females (Women at 22.5 percent)
  • South: 43 male, 21 female (Women at 32.8 percent)

And, here’s the breakdown by news sites associated with a traditional newspaper and those that are not.

  • Newspaper website: 157 males, 47 females (Women at 23 percent)
  • Online-only:  177 males, 62 females (Women at 25.9 percent)


Overall, 27 articles were written by an individual woman and 60 by one or more man, which meant women were 31 percent of authors during the first quarter. In addition, eight articles had a shared byline with a man (or several) and a woman.

Here’s a look by geographic region:

  • West: 6 stories by an individual woman, 17 by one or more man (Women at 26 percent)
  • Northeast: 3 by an individual woman, 18 by one or more man (Women at 14.2 percent)
  • Midwest: 10 by a woman, 14 by one or more man (Women at 41.6 percent)
  • South: 8 by a woman, 11 by one or more man (Women at 42 percent)

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

  • Newspaper website: 18 by a woman, 22 by one or more man (Women at 45 percent)
  • Online-only: 9 by a woman, 38 by one or more man (Women at 19.1 percent)

We’re interested in what you make of the findings. It’s early, but is there an aspect you’d be interested to see us explore more? Share your thoughts in the comment section below or email us at

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