Media’s Gender Gap: Where My Girls At?

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The representation of women in U.S. newsrooms is weak. The media industry is overwhelmingly male, and according to a report released this week by The Women’s Media Center, female representation in the press is declining.

Here are some figures from the report:

  • From 2010 to 2011, women dropped from 20 percent of behind-the-scenes entertainment television roles to 4 percent.
  • Women make up only 21.7 percent of Sunday morning talk show commentators on NBC, CBS, ABC, CNN and Fox News; and in one year, women in radio dropped 7.2 percent.
  • The film industry looks similar. Women direct only 5 percent of films and make up a third of speaking characters.

The report did contain some good news. For more than ten years, women in newspaper jobs were stuck below 40 percent; but in 2011, female newspaper representation increased to 40.5 percent from 36.6 percent.

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As the study shows, the decline in journalism, television and film jobs for women is not exactly breaking news. Women’s media representation has decreased or remained steady since 1998.

This trend very clearly does not reflect a lack of interest in media among women, who make up 73 percent of journalism and mass communication grads.

In a recent article, Good magazine put it well: “Gender equality in the media takes attention, work, and vigilance. It requires us to confront an uncomfortable truth: If we are all truly hiring the best person for the job, it means that we think that men are better.”

So what can be done? The Women’s Media Center, founded by Jane Fonda, Robin Morgan, and Gloria Steinem, encourages female advocacy groups and professional media organizations to “identify media gender equity as a priority and to develop clear and practical plans for achieving it.”

With active media vigilance, hopefully there will be a rise in female bylines.