The Women’s Media Center issued its annual study on The Status of Women in U.S. Media , which examines how women are represented across multiple media platforms, including “news, literature, broadcast, film, television, radio, online, tech, gaming and social media.” Titled “Divided 2015: The Media Gender Gap,” the investigation found that women, who make up more than half of the country’s population, are woefully underrepresented in most media formats. While the report notes that there were modest gains in a few areas, at nearly every level, from creation to fulfilment, the voices of women, as well as those of people of color, aren’t being heard in numbers comparable to their percentage of the population.
The figures offer a stark reminder that there’s tremendous work to be done to achieve gender parity in media, an institution which shapes and defines much of our cultural landscape. For example, just 37.3 percent of news is generated by women, compared with 62.1 percent of news which is generated by men. In terms of evening broadcast news, the numbers—which tallied appearances by anchors as well as correspondents—are even more troubling: women are on camera just 32 percent of the time, while men appear on camera 68 percent of the time. Of the 10 most widely circulated newspapers, women write just 37 percent of all stories. Contrast that with the 62 percent of stories written by men. And in the case of wire services Associated Press and Reuters, women write less than 40 percent of the stories, while men write 62 percent. Daily newspaper employees are overwhelmingly white, and just slightly majority male. White women are 31.1 percent of employees, while white men are 55.9 percent.
As Julie Burton, head of the Women’s Media Center notes, the news numbers deserve particular attention as political coverage begins to heat up. “With the 2016 presidential election already underway, this [report] is especially problematic,” Burton says. “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.”