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Women’s Media Center Report Finds Women Still Underrepresented, Misrepresented in U.S. Media

February 19, 2014

Women of Color Also Losing Ground

For Immediate Release

WASHINGTON, D.C — The U.S. media have exceedingly more distance to travel on the road to gender-blind parity, according to a report released today from the Women’s Media Center.

While noting barriers broken by top women in media like Shonda Rhimes, creator and executive producer and Jill Abramson, executive editor of The New York Times, WMC’s 2014 Status of Women in U.S. Media Report notes a troubling status quo and, in some places, a slipping back in time.

Sports news coverage remains overwhelmingly white and male, even as women’s sports and women sports fans are surging, the report says. Moreover, women of color — who are spotlighted in this report for the first time —are among those who have lost ground in recent years.

“The media is failing women across the board,” said Julie Burton, president of the Women’s Media Center. “The Women’s Media Center produces the annual Status of Women in U.S. Media Report to provide an overview of the role of women in media and thereby in society. It is a roadmap for where we are as a society and where we need to go for women to achieve an equal voice and equal participation. The numbers tell a clear story for the need for change on every media platform.”

WMC released the report today just before an afternoon panel discussion on “Women, Media and Leadership,” being held in conjunction with Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. Karen Finney, host of MSNBC’s “Disrupt with Karen Finney” is moderating the panel. Panelists will discuss the report and examine the gender disparities, challenges and opportunities for making women more visible and powerful in media.

Using an avalanche of new surveys, studies and reports, the Women’s Media Center report examines the representation of women in newspapers, online-only news sites, television, radio, social media, video games, film and television, sports news, newsmakers and corporate/technology leadership.

Click here to download the report.

Here are highlights from the 2014 report:

  • As newsroom staffing declined 6.4 percent from 2011 to 2012, the overall tally of women staffers continued to hover at 36 percent, a figure largely unchanged since 1999. Nevertheless, the count for women of color continued its more extreme fluctuations.
     
  • The number of women in radio news jumped 8 percent from 2012 to 2013, narrowing one of the historically widest gender gaps in the news industry. However, elsewhere in broadcast news, there were, as examples, losses in female on-air talent and broadcast managers.
     
  • White men continued to dominate the ranks of Sunday morning news talk show guests, except on a single MSNBC show with a black female host.
     
  • Two women—1.09 percent—were among the 183 sports talk radio hosts on Talkers magazine’s “Heavy Hundred” list. The Top Ten among Talker’s news talk show “Heavy Hundred” included no women.
     
  • More than 150 print publications and websites covering sports—an arena whose editors are 90 percent white and 90 percent male—were slammed with an “F” in an Associated Press Sports Editors-commissioned study.
     
  • Over a five-year period ending in 2012, the 500 top-grossing movies had 565 directors, 33 of whom were black and two of that 33 were black women.
     
  • Women represent 28.8 percent of speaking characters in the top-grossing films in 2012.
     
  • Only six percent of the top 100 films in 2012 hired a balanced cast of women and men.
     
  • For production of the 250 top-grossing domestically made films of 2013, women accounted for 16 percent of all directors, executive producers, producers, writers, cinematographers and editors, slightly lower than the 2012 and 1998 figures.
     
  • According to a two-month snapshot in 2013, men wrote 82 percent of all film reviews.
     
  • Women snared 43 percent of speaking parts in prime-time TV, according to the latest study, up from 41 percent previously. Those women, however, tended to be much younger than their male acting counterparts.
     
  • More white women but fewer women of color have been directing prime-time TV shows but the overall numbers for women has remained virtually unchanged.

“As my former boss used to say, ‘better decisions get made when women are at the table,’ ” said Finney. “As this report vividly illustrates, we have a long way to go toward ensuring that reality across the spectrum and at all levels of media.”

The report was researched and written for the Women’s Media Center by Katti Gray, veteran journalist and custom content producer. Cindy Royal, Ph.D., an associate professor in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Texas State University in San Marcos reviewed it. Cristal Williams Chancellor, media relations manager of The Women’s Media Center and senior producer for Women’s Media Center Live with Robin Morgan, edited the report.

Today’s panel at ASU is to be a key element of the evening kickoff for Take the Lead’s Challenge Launch event, featuring Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook and author of The New York Times bestseller, “Lean In.”

The panelists for the women in media discussion are: Julie Burton, president of the Women’s Media Center; Erica Gonzalez, executive editor of El Diario-La Prensa; Pat Mitchell, president & CEO of The Paley Center for Media; Amina Sow digital strategist and co-founder of the networking group, Tech Lady Mafia and Kristin Gilger, associate dean at ASU’s Cronkite School.

 “I’ve worked in journalism and journalism education for more than 30 years, so I was pretty sure I was well aware of how women are faring in the media,” said Gilger. “But the 2014 report on the Status of Women in the Media surprised me. Women, it seems, have come far only if you count progress in inches. This report reminds us all of how important it is to take a step back, see where we’re at and pay attention to how far we still have to go.”

The Women’s Media Center works to make women visible and powerful in media. The Women’s Media Center trains women experts to be in the media; promotes women experts in the media, does groundbreaking research and reporting on media inclusion and accuracy; produces media style guides, such as the first ever to cover reproductive issues (especially important now that reproductive freedom is under attack in states across the country); and documents and reports sexualized violence as a tool of war in Syria and other conflict regions. Its publication, The Status of Women in U.S. Media Report, is now the industry standard on where women stand, and serves as a map to where women need to go.  

For press information about The Women’s Media Center, contact Cristal Williams Chancellor at: cristal@womensmediacenter.com, 202-587-1636.