I belong to a group called Women in Journalism (WiJ). We work across all the written media, from newspapers and magazines to the new media. We network, campaign, train and party. It is fun and it is needed.
I am often asked – especially by male colleagues - why do we need such an organization in this day and age. Well…Where do I start!
Kira Cochrane, a WiJ member and Guardian feature writer, trawled newspapers, radio and TV shows looking at the gender of writers, presenters and guests over several weeks. The results, published in a Guardian article this week, are even worse than I suspected and it is so depressing.
From Monday 13th June to Friday 8th July – before the school summer holidays started, to avoid any skewing effect – Kira and a group of researchers carried out a simple count of newspaper bylines. They went through seven daily newspapers in their entirety each day, counting and recording the number of male and female writers, and then calculating the percentage values.
They found that in a typical month, women journalists accounted for just 22.6 per cent, as opposed to 77.4 per cent for male reporters, and there wasn't a single day, on a single newspaper, when the number of female bylines outstripped or equalled the number of male bylines.
During that four-week period, they also logged the gender of reporters and guests on the BBC radio 4 agenda-setting Today programme and the BBC TV political show Question Time.
72% of the BBC political show Question Time contributors are men and 84% of reporters and guests on Radio 4's Today show are men.
Where are all the women?
Does it matter who reports the news and appears on current affairs programmes?
According to the most recent survey by the Global Media Monitoring Project (March 2010), women feature in only about a fifth of the world’s news headlines and just ten percent of all news stories.
“Literally thousands of stories about, by and for women are never told. This sends a message that women’s experiences and opinions are just not as important or as valid as those of men,” says Alison Clarke, who created Women’s Views on News, a women’s daily online news and current affairs service, to redress the imbalance in women’s favour. (The site is down at the moment because of technical difficulties).