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News from City, University of London

News is still a man's world

Women on Air’ conference discusses new data on representations of women in broadcast news
  • Male experts still outnumber female experts by a ratio of four to one on flagship news programmes
  • Most women interviewed for news programmes are not called experts, but most men interviewed for news programmes are
  • There are more than three times more male reporters than female reporters

The latest results from City University London and Broadcast Magazine's Expert Women survey find that there is little or no improvement in the representation of women on flagship news programmes in the two years since the campaign's launch.

The results were announced this morning at City University London's 'Women on Air' Conference.

Opening the conference, Dame Tessa Jowell MP said: "Given the media is the prism nullthrough which so much of life is interpreted, the gender imbalance in respect of owners, editors, presenters, guests and portrayal of women is a major challenge to accuracy and impartiality - and in the long-term, the effectiveness of our democracy and civic society."

The research examined 125 programmes between November 2013 and March 2014. Other key findings include:

  • The Today programme has improved slightly across the board - but still has the worst overall ratio of any programme monitored for the representation of women
  • Most male experts speak for longer than female experts
  • In 60% of discussions surveyed, male experts spoke first
  • Ten times more men experts than women experts are interviewed about politics, but only twice as many men experts are interviewed about health, in 38 programmes sampled
  • 82% of journalists surveyed say they actively try to get women experts
  • 71% of expert women surveyed said they lacked self-confidence, feared criticism and were worried about being assertive - the 'pushy' syndrome
  • Only 39% of expert women surveyed were concerned about their appearance

Lis Howell, Director of Broadcasting at City University London, who led the research, says: "Things are changing but very slowly. Journalists want to get women on air, and women want to do it, but there are few role models, and there is still some resistance in conservative pockets of the profession. But the fact that the "Today" programme has improved - where once you could listen for an hour without hearing a female voice - has to be a good sign."

Professor Dame Carol Black, Principal of Newnham College, Cambridge University says:null "There are now women scientists, engineers, lawyers, accountants, politicians and business leaders - not as many as we would like - but there has been progress in every profession. But have we gone the next step and made them able to identify themselves an 'expert woman?' These results show us clearly that many women need assertiveness and resilience training to give them the confidence they need to appear in the media as expert women and the media must give them more opportunities to speak in discussions."

In summarising proceedings, Channel 4 News presenter, Krishnan Guru-Murthy said: "It is time to end the dishonesty about what actually goes on in hiring people. We need to have an open conversation about positive discrimination to finally deliver the sea-change we need."

Dame Tessa Jowell opened the conference with a keynote speech that examined how women have historically been marginalised as voices of authority. Other guests and speakers included Caroline Criado-Perez, Helen Goodman MP, Anne Morrison and senior news executives from the BBC, ITN, Sky News and Channel 4 News.

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