Is there a difference in the representation of women as sources and authors based on the subject of the article?
This is a question we’d been asking ourselves. We did look at the issue of coverage type when we examined the number of female principal staff members for online news sites through the Columbia Journalism Review’s News Frontier Database and found differences, but we’d yet to address it through our article monitoring.
Since marking six months of our Gender Check monitoring project and releasing our initial findings at the end of July, we’ve had a chance to spend some more time with our data and look at it from different angles, including this one.
We went back through our findings and looked at each of the 190 article we gender checked by topic. To have a basis of comparison as well as a some-what standardized approach, we opted to use (to the best of our ability) the Global Media Monitoring Project‘s news stories classification system (Click for a PDF of the system). This system divides articles into eight categories with a numbering system for further breakdowns within each category. Due to the number of articles in our sample at this time, we’ve opted just to look at the representation of women in each of the main categories, though we hope to look at further divisions in the future. None of our articles fell under the categories of “Other” and ‘The Girl-Child,” so we’ll just be sticking to the six remaining categories.
In terms of the subject classification of the articles we monitored in the first six months of our Gender Check project, the largest number fell under “Crime and Violence” (62 out of 190). That was followed by “Politics and Government” (41), “Economy” (38), “Social and Legal” (24), “Science and Health” (16) and “Celebrity, Arts, Media and Sports” (9).
Within those categories, here’s what we found:
The classification with the lowest percentage of female sources was “Social and Legal” at 19.8 percent followed closely by “Politics and Government” at 20.2 percent. The highest percentage of female sources went to “Science and Health” at 30.4 percent.
Here’s the breakdown by classification:
- Politics and Government: 142 males, 36 females (Women as 20.2 percent)
- Economy: 100 males, 34 females (Women as 25.4 percent)
- Science and Health: 55 males, 24 females (Women as 30.4 percent)
- Social and Legal: 73 males, 18 females (Women as 19.8 percent)
- Crime and Violence: 180 males, 73 females (Women as 28.9 percent)
- Celebrity, Arts, Media and Sports: 22 males, 9 females (Women as 29 percent)
Even though they had the highest percentage of female sources, “Science and Health” articles did not fair well when it came to female bylines. Articles in this classification had the lowest percentage of female authors at 25 percent. The closest to byline parity was in “Economy” where females made up 44.7 percent of authors.
Here’s how it separated out by classification:
- Politics and Government: 15 stories by women, 23 by men, 3 shared bylines between a man and a woman (Women as 36.6 percent)
- Economy: 17 by women, 21 by men (Women as 44.7 percent)
- Science and Health: 4 by women, 11 by men, 1 shared (Women as 25 percent)
- Social and Legal: 9 by women, 13 by men, 2 shared (Women as 37.5 percent)
- Crime and Violence: 18 by women, 35 by men, 8 shared, 1 by contributors (Women as 29 percent)
- Celebrity, Arts, Media and Sports: 3 by women, 6 by men (Women as 33.3 percent)
We’ll be continuing to watch for trends that emerge in subject areas over time as our study progresses. We’d like to hear from you. What did you find most interesting or surprising about these results? What are you curious to know?