As we well know, and as the recent Status of Women in the U.S. Media report from the Women’s Media Center illustrates, women have long been underrepresented and misrepresented in traditional media and entertainment.
A new report from the Women’s Media Center draws attention to persistent and pervasive gender gaps in U.S. media.
The report, titled The Status of Women in U.S. Media 2013, provides a thorough summary of recent findings and studies pertaining to women’s representation in the media over the past year. It includes findings related to newspapers, television, radio, film, social media, literature, and video games. WMC released a similar report for 2012.
“The report shows that while media is the most powerful economic and cultural force today, it still falls far too short in its representation of women,” said Julie Burton, president of the Women’s Media Center, in a press release. “Who tells the story, what the story is about, and who is quoted in the story are core to the work of The Women’s Media Center, and the numbers demonstrate that the glass ceiling extends across all media platforms. We can do better – we must do better. Women represent 51 percent of the U.S. population yet we’re still not seeing equal participation. That means we are only using half our talent and usually hearing half of the story.”
This years report points to a number of findings we’ve also featured on our site over the past year, including that the percentage of women in U.S. newsrooms has remained unchanged at 36.9 percent since 1999. Our Byline Report study, which looked at the gender breakdowns of bylines at six online-only news sites, is featured in the report. The study found that male bylines outnumbered female bylines four out of the six websites we examined during our six-month study. As the WMC report notes, “Newer, online-only news sites have fallen into the same rut as legacy media.” You can read about our findings on pages 20-21.
Here are some of the other highlights related to news media from the WMC report:
“By a nearly 3 to 1 margin, male front-page bylines at top newspapers outnumbered female bylines in coverage of the 2012 presidential election.”
“On Sunday TV talk shows, women comprised only 14 percent of those interviewed and 29 percent of roundtable guests.”
“Obituaries about men far outnumber those of women in top national and regional newspapers.”
A few media outlets have picked up on the report since its release last Friday. Here’s a round-up of coverage of the report thus far:
Men still dominate opinion writing across legacy and new media, according to a report released this week from The OpEd Project.
The OpEd Project, whose mission is to increase the diversity of voices in public debate, released a byline survey of opinion articles from a 12-week period in 2011. The survey included 7,000 articles at 10 media outlets, including legacy (Los Angeles Times, New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Washington Post), new (Huffington Post and Salon) and college (Columbia, Harvard, Princeton, and Yale) media.
Not surprising, college media had the highest number of female bylines out of the three groups at 38 percent. However, one would expect that number to be even higher considering women have been the majority of journalism students for decades.
Women also had more op-ed bylines in new media (33 percent) than legacy media (20 percent). This is particularly interesting because our study as well as the Global Media Monitoring Project found slightly fewer female bylines at online news sites than traditional media. In the 2010 Global Media Monitoring Project, only a small difference was found as overall 37 percent of stories were reported by women while 36 percent of stories in the online samples were bylined by women. Also, our 2011 Gender Check study (though admittedly with a much smaller sample size) found women had 33.9 percent of bylines at newspaper websites and 30.5 percent at online-only news websites. This definitely demonstrates there is need for further study and comparison, which is part of The Gender Report’s mission. The OpEd Project did note that there have been some improvements in the number of female bylines from 6 years ago.
Also noteworthy, The OpEd Project examined the subjects of the op-ed pieces by women. Women wrote the most in both legacy and new media about what the report dubbed “Pink Topics.” These were considered topics that have traditionally been considered the female “ghetto” in journalism including the “four F’s” (food, family, furniture and fashion). It also included articles on women-focused subject matter (for instance “woman-specific health or culture”), gender/women’s issues, and profiles of women for which gender is a “significant” issue.
Response and Reaction
Several blogs and organizations picked up on the report including Poynter and the Huffington Post. Often shared was Erika Fry’s piece from the Columbia Journalism Review, which puts the numbers in context and examines some of the related issues.
J. Bryan Lowder at the XX Factor questioned what was categorized as “Pink Topics,” suggesting it can perpetuate stereotypes by making it unclear what distinguishes between “women specific health and culture” and “serious” political topics.
Following the release, Poynter held a live chat on how to crack journalism’s glass ceiling. In addition to Mallary Tenore and Joe Grimm from Poynter, the chat featured Barbara Selvin, an assistant professor at Stony Brook University’s School of Journalism, who has recently written blog posts about the lack of women in journalism.
Additionally, stories noted that a panel was held Tuesday titled Throw Like A Girl: Pitching the Hell Out of Your Stories, put together by Her Girl Friday. This panel, according to Jillian Keenan at Poynter, encouraged women to gain confidence and overcome their fear of rejection. However, Jen Doll at The Atlantic Wire cautioned attributing the lack of female bylines to an issue of confidence, saying it continues to put the blame on women and is perhaps oversimplifying the issue.
This survey and others like it continue to raise awareness about the gender gap in journalism, but as Doll notes, “knowing these stats is only half the battle.”
Women continue to comprise 36.9 percent of those working full-time at daily U.S. newspapers, according to the American Society of News Editors‘ 2012 Newsroom Census. That percentage remains unchanged from 2011’s survey.
This year ASNE collaborated with the Center for Advanced Social Research at the Missouri School of Journalism for its annual survey effort. ASNE, which has conducted the census since 1978, unveiled this year’s findings at its convention this week in Washington, D.C. The employment survey showed declines in total newsroom employment as well as in positions held by minorities.
Though the organization’s press release on the Newsroom Census focused on these issues, the accompanying tables depict the current gender breakdown in newsrooms. The Newsroom Census tables, which include data from 1999 to the present, show that the percentage of women in newsrooms has not changed more than roughly a percentage point in that time frame. The high was 37.7 percent in 2006 and the low occurred in 2010 at 36.6 percent. The current percentage of women in newsrooms — 36.9 percent — is the same as it was in 1999, 2003 and 2011. In the current survey, the number of women working full-time at daily newspapers was 14,971, while 25,595 employees were men.
Additionally, survey results are broken down by gender and race. Based on these charts, about 15.3 percent of female staff members in the survey were minority women. Last year, ASNE reported that minority women made up 19.3 percent of female staffers. Meanwhile, minority men were roughly 10.5 percent of male employees in the current survey. That percentage was 10.8 the year prior. This is the first year the survey has included a “multi-racial” category, which may slightly skew our understanding of changes in the breakdowns by each race (For the complete breakdown, see Table K).
A separate table tracks gender and job category. Of the four job categories identified, women had the highest representation among copy/layout editors and online producers at 42.3 percent and lowest among photographers, artists and videographers at 25.2. percent. None of the categories had more than a one percent change from the previous year. The percentage of women in three categories — supervisors, reporters and writers and photographers, artists and videographers — dropped slightly, while the percentage of female copy/layout editors and online producers rose. Two categories set records this year, with women at their highest percentage in the past 14 years for copy/layout editors and online producers but at their lowest in that same time frame among reporters and writers at 38 percent.
Find out more about the latest census using the links below to the press release as well as charts related to newsroom gender breakdowns.
The report was inspired in part by CBS correspondent Lara Logan sharing about her sexual assault by a mob in Egypt earlier this year. (Read our post about the coverage of her experience here.) Her “breaking of the silence” has since encouraged others to come forward and groups like CPJ to realize how little information there is on journalists’ experience with sexual violence on the job.
More than four dozen journalists were interviewed for CPJ’s report. Although women made up the majority of victims, some male journalists also came forward and shared experiences, mostly that took place while in captivity. Experiences ranged from groping and threats of sexual violence to violent rapes.
The report identified three different incidents in which journalists typically experience assault: (1) those that are targeted at specific journalists often in response to their work, (2) those that occur in a mob while the journalists are covering an event and (3) those that take place while journalists are detained or held captive.
Many had not previously shared their stories due to fear of stigma, distrust in authorities to act on their report and fears of professional reprisals including of getting pulled from assignments.
Correspondent Jenny Nordberg, one of those whose story is told in the report, expressed concerns about its possible effect on her work assignments and noted the gender of her editor may have played a part in her decision not to share what happened. Nordberg’s experience is similar to Logan’s: She was sexually assaulted by a crowd of men while covering the return of Benazir Bhutto in Pakistan in 2007. Here’s what she said:
“It’s embarrassing, and you feel like an idiot saying anything, especially when you are reporting on much, much greater horrors…But it still stays with you. I did not tell the editors for fear of losing assignments. That was definitely part of it. And I just did not want them to think of me as a girl. Especially when I am trying to be equal to, and better than, the boys. I may have told a female editor though, had I had one.”
In light of the special report, CPJ also produced an addendum to its security guide touching on the issue of sexual aggression and ways to minimize the risk of such experiences.
CPJ notes that this initial research is meant to provide the basis for a long-range survey it will work on about the issue in the coming year.
Read the full report here. What information would you like to see on this issue in the longer survey? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.