Women’s Role in U.S. Media: Still Dismal? Getting Stronger?
The Women’s Media Center – founded by Jane Fonda, Robin Morgan, and Gloria Steinem – has the goal of making women visible and powerful in media. The Women’s Media Center (WMC) released its yearly report on the status of women in U.S. media 2015.
The report is based on new and original research that finds the media landscape is still dominated by male voices and male perspectives. Taken together, the 49 studies are a snapshot of women in newsrooms in media platforms as diverse as news, literature, broadcast, film, television, radio, online, tech, gaming and social media. It finds the media landscape is still dominated by male voices and male perspectives.
“Inequality defines our media, said Julie Burton, President of the Women’s Media Center. “Our research shows that women, who are more than half of the population, write only a third of the stories. Media tells us our roles in society – it tells us who we are and what we can be. This new report tells us who matters and what is important to media – and it is not women.”
As the 2016 presidential campaign takes shape, WMC’s original research shows that in 2014, men reported 65 percent of all U. S. political news stories. In addition, as the summer entertainment television and movie season gets underway, figures documenting all sectors of film and television production find that women still have limited creative input in shaping the characters, images and depictions on screen. And, although women use social media platforms at greater rates than men, the companies that create those platforms are largely white and male.
WMC’s Divided 2015: The Media Gender Gap
For the second consecutive year, the WMC commissioned its own study of how many women were among the nation’s journalists and the issues they were assigned to cover.
Men were more likely to write or report on the topics of politics, criminal justice, science, sports and technology, according to WMC’s “Divided 2015: The Media Gender Gap, a three-month analysis is part of the Women’s Media Center Status of Women in U.S. Media 2015 report. This study looked at the nation’s 10 most widely circulated newspapers, the national evening news broadcasts, the most-viewed Internet news sites and two international wire services.
“With the 2016 presidential election already under way, this is especially problematic,” said Burton. “We hope that one good result of releasing these discouraging numbers will be that media can take a hard look at their newsrooms and make changes to improve the ratios in their reporting. Media companies should establish goals for improving their gender diversity and create both short-term and long-term mechanisms for achieving them. They should ask themselves why their newsrooms aren’t 50 percent women and what steps they need to take to get there. And if they aren’t asking themselves these questions, then that’s a problem.”
WMC’s research examined 27,758 pieces of content produced from October 1 through December 31, 2014. Only three outlets achieved or exceeded parity: the Chicago Sun-Times, The Huffington Post and the two anchor chairs at PBS Newshour.
WMC’s “Divided 2015: The Media Gender Gap” also found that:
Overall, men generated 62.1 percent of news; women generated 37.3 percent.
In evening broadcast news, Men were on camera 68 percent of the time. These include appearances by anchors as well as correspondents. Women were on-camera 32 percent of the time.
In print, men wrote 62 percent of all stories in 10 of the most widely circulated newspapers. Women wrote just 37 percent.
On the Internet, men wrote 58 percent of content at four online news sites. Women wrote 42 percent of the content.
On the wires, men wrote 62 percent of the content. Women wrote 38 percent.
In film and television entertainment:
The number of women creators, writers, producers, executive producers, photography directors and editors of prime-time TV entertainment shows slide 1 percentage point between 2012-13 and 2013-14, with women representing only 27 percent of that entire workforce.
In addition, men were 83 percent of all directors, executive producers, producers, writers, cinematographers and editors for the 250 most profitable films made in the United States in 2014. The figures documenting all sectors of film and television production demonstrate that few women have creative input in what is depicted on our television, film and in the growing offerings of online networks. Moreover collectively when women characters appear in our entertainment they are given less lines, are younger and show more skin than male characters.
“The numbers are stark and striking and need to change,” said WMC co-founder Jane Fonda.
“The fact is that most of our entertainment is directed by white men and most of the stories are told through the eyes of men. The first step in changing the picture is to recognize there is a problem. The Women’s Media Center’s report should demonstrate to everyone how deep the problem goes.”
The report was written for the Women’s Media Center by Katti Gray, veteran journalist and custom content producer. The report was reviewed by Cindy Royal, Ph.D., an associate professor in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Texas State University in San Marcos.
This fourth edition of the Women’s Media Center’s The Status of Women in U.S. Media report is our annual review across all platforms of media—news, literature, broadcast, film, television, radio, sports, magazines, digital, tech, gaming, and social media.
The report shines a light on a few laudable improvements in the industry, but overall its findings are clear: Media on all platforms are failing women.
The information in WMC’s Divided 2015: The Media Gender Gap” is derived from an analysis of 27,758 pieces of content from October 1 to December 31, 2014. Selected media include the top ten national newspapers by circulation, evening news broadcasts on major broadcast networks, two wire services, and four major Internet news sites.
For all media, articles and content that do not directly identify a journalist or a reporter as the source of the content were excluded. This includes unsigned editorials and stories with no byline.
NEWSPAPERS: Using major commercial content aggregators, articles were collected from the first or A section of eight broadsheets (Chicago Sun-Times, Denver Post, LA Times, The New York Times, San Jose Mercury News, USA TODAY, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post). For the two tabloid format newspapers (New York Daily News, New York Post) articles were selected based on content, generally excluding sports/lifestyle/entertainment.
WIRES: All articles from the Associated Press and Reuters with an identifiable byline are included. Due to the volume of content produced by wire services, every attempt was made to select articles only over 500 words.
TV: Transcripts were collected from evening news broadcasts on ABC, CBS, NBC, and PBS. Anchors and reporters are identified as the “byline” journalists.
INTERNET: Due to the high volume of content published on these sites, a random selection of content was selected from four sites: CNN.com, Daily Beast, FOXNews.com, and The Huffington Post.
All content was given one or more subject tags. These tags are cross-referenced with the gender of journalists to identify whether certain subjects are covered more by men or women.
For content that includes more than one identified journalist or reporter as the source of the content, a primary byline has been identified, and a secondary byline has been identified where necessary.
The Women’s Media Center commissioned Novetta (www.novetta.com) to conduct this research.