It’s a well-known fact that women are underrepresented in media, but exactly how much and why is up for debate. A recent study conducted by The OpEd Project concluded that not only are women underrepresented in mainstream media, but we are caught in a trap of not even being asked to participate.
The blaming that has been set upon women are we are not as forthcoming in exhibiting our expertise or that we don’t feel confident enough to believe that we can defend our standpoints. But the fact that we aren’t even being trusted to present our side of the issues is the bigger problem in having us represented. Even with the Women’s Lib revolution, Women’s Suffrage, and all the civil rights gains we’ve made over the last 100 years, our voices, opinions, and expertise are not being heard.
Women are, however, being trusted more than men to write about “soft” issues such as those deemed as the Four F’s: food, family, furniture (house-related), and fashion.
A recent study by the Op-Ed Project found that while women wrote half or more of the editorials last year on gender, family, and style, their share of op-eds on politics and the economy were worryingly small. In traditional media outlets during the study period, women wrote just 11% of op-eds on the economy, and around 12% of those on international politics. In new media, the picture wasn’t much better — women there wrote just 19% of editorials on the economy.
From The OpEd Project, “The following are the results of our most recent effort, which evaluated over 7,000 articles in 10 media outlets over a 12 week period from 9/15/11 to 12/7/11,” and “When comparing the 2011 Byline Survey to Howard Kurtz’ and James Rainey’s numbers in 2005, we see increases of 5 percentage points in the New York Times, 9 percentage points in the Washington Post, and 4 points in the LA Times.”
Anna North of BuzzFeed reports that in 2001, the lack of women’s roles in media was noticed in the post-9/11 news coverage, “obscur(ing) the fact that women were much more skeptical about a military response than men were, and may have contributed directly to the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq.” In December of 2001, Common Dreams pointed out the following regarding women in media:
According to a study released last week by the White House Project, a nonpartisan women’s leadership group, women were just 11 percent of guests and 7 percent of repeat interviewees on five Sunday morning talk shows on ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN and FOX between January 2000, and June 2001. Roundtable participants were not counted as guests, nor were journalists connected to the network.
During those 18 months, for every one woman appearing on the shows, there were nine guests with names like Tom (Daschle), Dick (Armey) and Harry (Browne). Their post-9-11 addendum study yielded even more pitiful numbers: For six weeks after the attacks, guest appearances by American women plummeted 39 percent.
Women were being pointedly shut out of the discussion that impacted us all.
What do we do about the gender gap in media?
We do it ourselves, and we do it well.
Angie Lynch is the founder and managing editor of the powerhouse women’s literary community, Smut Book Club. She is a Native Floridian without a tan, probably because she spends her days hard at work on the magical internet. For the past several years, Angie has worked way too hard at building clout as an influencer in food and margaritas as well as being a source for laughable pop culture commentary. You can read more from Angie on her blog, A Whole Lot of Nothing.
The OpEd Project: The Byline Survey Report, 2011: Who Narrates the World?
BuzzFeed: Why Women Can’t Get Away From “Soft” News
Common Dreams: Missing Since 9-11: Women’s Voices