New survey from the Expert Women Project shows that, in April, men experts dominated nearly 3 to 1, owing to the Super League football story

By Chris Lines(Senior Communications Officer), Published

The latest surveys by the Expert Women Project show that it is a game of two halves, with March 2021 showing the best ratio of women to men experts ever recorded on flagship UK news programmes, owing in part to the Sarah Everard vigil story, swiftly followed by the worst for four years in April 2021, predominantly due to the Super League football story.

Over a three-month period – February, March and April 2021 – the number of women experts used on the six flagship programmes monitored has only just returned to the level of 2019, at 2.2-1, and not as good as February 2020, which was 1.9-1.

In the week sampled in February 2021 there were 2.4 men experts to every woman expert used. In March 2021, there were 1.6 men experts to every woman expert used. And in April 2021, there were 2.9 men experts to every woman expert used – the worst ratio seen in four years.

This shows that when a story of interest to men hits the headlines, broadcasters have no qualms about letting it dominate and increasing the use of men disproportionately.

Overall, the Sarah Everard vigil story, which ran over two days, had 22 women experts on the flagship programmes and 12 men.

Meanwhile, the Super League story, which ran over three days, had 66 male experts and 2 women experts, a difference of 2-1. So, for a male-oriented sports story there is a huge dominance of men, and for a female-oriented story there are more women, but also a significant number of men.

The Expert Women Project, under the direction of its founder – City, University of London’s Professor Emeritus of Journalism Lis Howell – surveys six flagship UK TV and radio news programmes for five days per month.

The six programmes surveyed are: Channel 4 News, Sky News Breakfast, ITV News at Ten, Today (BBC Radio 4), BBC News at Ten, and 5 News (Channel 5).

Professor Howell said:

“There seems to be some evidence that stories deemed to be of interest to men gain more airtime, and that men experts will be used more and for longer on stories of interest to men, than female experts on stories of interest to women. Sports stories of interest predominantly to men can still dominate the news agenda.

There are some excellent women sports commentators but when it comes to the business of sport, men dominate.

“Overall, the pandemic has certainly led to a decrease in the use of women experts. This will surprise many people who believe that there are more women experts than there used to be.

“This perception is probably because there have been some recurring and highly visible women scientists and health workers.

“But the fact is, when compared to pre-pandemic 2020, women experts are not as plentiful, and when stories which appeal to men come along, they get a higher proportion of men experts than stories of interest to women get women experts.”

Despite a big improvement over the last eight years of Expert Women Project monitoring, the male expert is still the norm.

Visit the Expert Women Project website.


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