Editor’s note: Our findings through our monitoring projects have served to identify and bring attention to the fact that women’s voices are missing, but have left us with more questions than answers. That’s why we’re taking our project a step further by starting a discussion on why this is the case and what can be done about it. This is part of a series of posts each week aiming to start a discussion on gender representations in online news. View past “Report Your Thoughts” discussions here.
Question 3: Why does it matter?
For the past two weeks since we launched our “Report Your Thoughts” discussion, we’ve asked and discussed (mostly via the Twitter hashtag #GRdiscuss) the basic question of “Why?” — Why are women present in such low numbers in our byline counts of lead articles as well as our looks inside newsrooms? And why are women’s voices absent among news sources?
Now we want to turn the discussion in a different direction to the question: Why does it matter? If women are a quarter or less of news sources and slightly over a third of authors, what difference does that make?
We want to hear from you. Why is it important that women have a part in producing the news and have their voices heard as news sources? Share your thoughts in the comment section as well as on Twitter with the hashtag #GRdiscuss or on our Facebook page.
Update: As has been the case, most of the discussion for this week’s question took place via Twitter using the hashtag #GRdiscuss. A few people and organizations took part by commenting on the question. Others retweeted and shared parts of the discussion.
Here are some of the highlights:
I think this is the question that I get most often when I explain the Gender Report to friends. They ask, “why does it matter how many women are sources and participants in the creation of news?” The answer I come back to is usually two-fold. First, without enough women as sources, the women who are represented, especially as experts or political leaders, become the representative voice for women, rather than just another voice in the larger discussion on that news topic. For example, if only one female Congresswoman is included, her voice is automatically considered the “female perspective,” and devalued because of this pigeonhole approach, rather than just including her as yet another commentary in Congress.
My second answer is a bit more complicated. One of the reasons we started this project was to have some hard data, even in small samples, beyond just saying we thought women were underrepresented. If women are 51% of our country’s population, it should worry us that they are represented as sources and reporters at such a discrepancy to this number. We haven’t necessarily gotten to the “why” of this yet, but at least are starting to show that the discrepancy does in fact exist.