The Status of Women in the U.S. Media 2017
The research that the Women’s Media Center conducts is more than statistics. It is evidence, a tool for social change, and creates benchmarks to highlight the status and progress of women in media.
This fifth edition of the Women’s Media Center’s annual assessment of how a diversity of females fare across all media platforms—and in arenas including education, engineering and technology that pump workers into the media pipeline—finds areas of progress, regress and, sadly, outright pushback.
Men still dominate media across all platforms—television, newspapers, online and wires—with change coming only incrementally. Women are not equal partners in telling the story, nor are they equal partners in sourcing and interpreting what and who is important in the story.
Most certainly, we salute media advances toward gender and race parity that are noted in this report. Yet, we are deeply concerned about areas where the media lurched backward.
Researchers at universities, media think-tanks and media watchers elsewhere have gauged, empirically, positions women held, work they produced, strides they made and constraints they faced—across the news, entertainment, online, gaming and tech industries—since the Women’s Media Center’s last report.
For its own part, the WMC’s annual examination found that, at 20 of the nation’s top news outlets, men produced 62.3 percent of news reports analyzed during a studied period while women produced 37.7 percent of news reports. That WMC “Divided 2017” analysis showed hardly any progress since the WMC’s previous “Divided” report, when women produced 37.3 percent of news.
Additionally, in the broadcast news sector alone, work by women anchors, field reporters and correspondents actually declined, falling to 25.2 percent of reports in 2016 from 32 percent when the WMC published its 2015 “Divided” report.
Here is a summary of the key findings in this report:
TRADITIONAL PRINT AND ONLINE-ONLY JOURNALISM
- The American Society of News Editors stopped requiring newsrooms to disclose the names of their organizations alongside race and gender personnel data. The change aimed to get more of ASNE’s 1,734 member newspapers and online-only news sites to be more forthcoming about who’s on their staffs.
- At least one woman was among the top three editors at 77 percent of responding ASNE organizations.
- At least one person of color was among the top three editors at 28 percent of those news organizations.
- Females accounted for more than a third of ASNE newsroom employees overall, with more employed at online-only sites than at newspapers.
- At 37 percent of ASNE online sites and 14 percent of daily newspapers, women were the majority of the workforce.
- Whites comprised 83.06 percent of the overall workforce among ASNE respondents.
- Women penned 37 percent of bylined news articles and opinion pieces about reproductive issues in the nation’s 12 most widely circulated newspapers and news wires.
- Women won 14 percent and persons of color 16 percent of a century’s worth of Pulitzer Prizes.
- Women earned less—and minority women, substantially less—than men at Dow Jones and its flagship international newspaper, The Wall Street Journal.
- The number of female assistant sports editors at 100 U.S. and Canadian newspapers and websites fell by roughly half between 2012 and 2014—from 17.2 percent of all such editors to 9.8 percent.
RADIO, TELEVISION AND MULTI-PLATFORM JOURNALISM
- TV news saw a record rise in minority female news directors and overall minority workforce—but that sector’s employees still are a long way from reflecting the nation’s demographic profile.
- The tally of female radio and TV news directors rose to 33.1 percent in 2015, a roughly 2-percentage-point increase from 2014.
- Minorities comprised 17.2 percent of all radio and TV news directors, up from 13.5 percent in 2014 and breaking a record of 15.5 percent, set in 2008.
- Women radio and TV news staffers, overall, made up 44.2 percent of that workforce, up from 42.3 percent in 2014, but were more likely to be working in the smallest markets.
- Among minorities in radio and TV news, only Asians declined in number, falling 0.2 percent since 2014.
FILM AND TELEVISION ENTERTAINMENT
- 11 percent of speaking characters in a subset of top-grossing films were aged 60 and older. Of that group, 72.8 percent were men—even as aging women are a substantially larger subset of the U.S. population.
- Of the 895 characters regularly slated to appear in primetime TV series on ABC, NBC and CBS in 2016-17, 43 were lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or a queer, the highest proportion since GLAAD started its count.
- Hollywood’s top paid union executive—a man—earned 60 percent more than the highest-paid female union executive.
- Females constituted 30 percent of playwrights and 33 percent of directors for five seasons’ worth of Off-Broadway and Off-Off-Broadway shows at 22 theaters.
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