Women: Half the Population, A Fifth of the News
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Half the Population, A Fifth of the News
by Sanjay Suri
''What we see in news subjects is that whilst women make up 52 percent
of the world's population, they make up only 21 percent of news
subjects,'' Anna Turley from the World Association for Christian
Communication (WACC) told IPS. WACC is a non-governmental organisation
that promotes communication for social change.
But the number of women behind the news is rising, she
said. ''Encouragingly, when we look at the men and women who report the
news, we see a steady increase in the number of news stories reported by
women,'' she said. That has gone up from 31 to 37 percent from 2000 to
The findings are based on news items appearing on a single day (Feb. 16,
2005). Almost 13,000 news items were surveyed on that day in 76
But through the five years, the number of women as subjects remained
more or less the same. Does that mean that more women are behind news
reports but still not writing about women?
''I think that is one possible conclusion but global data shows that in
stories reported by women, there is a greater chance that there will be
more women news subjects in those stories,'' said Turley.
Within the 21 percent space they get as subjects, they do not always
appear for the best reasons. ''They are more likely to be found in what
is referred to as the soft end of the news spectrum, celebrity stories,
social and legal issues,'' said Turley. ''They are much less present in
the politics and economics stories which of course make up the bulk of
the news agenda.''
Within media ''what we are seeing is that print media lags far behind
radio and television,'' Turley said. Only 29 percent of the women behind
the news in print are women, relative to the average of 37 percent.
In television news reporting women outnumber men. The study says in the
reports scrutinised from the 76 countries, 58 percent were by women.
But that is not necessarily pleasing WACC. ''What we see is that the
number of women below the age of 35 in television is far greater,''
Turley said. ''Interestingly, past the age of 35 we see far more men
reporting the news than women. That of course suggests that appearance
and age are a criteria for women journalists and not for men.''
The Global Media Monitoring Project as it is called was first conducted
in 1995 and then again in 2000 and 2005. Besides finding little
improvement in representation of women as news subjects, the survey
showed also that the pattern can be similar in countries as dissimilar
as Britain and Zimbabwe.
Some other findings:
As many as 96 percent of stories do not highlight gender equality or
- Women are least represented in radio where they are only 17 percent of
the subjects compared to 22 percent in television and 21 percent in
- As many as 86 percent of people featured as spokespersons were men.
- Women are more than twice as likely to be portrayed as victims than
- Female reporters are more likely to cover the 'soft' news.
- Only 10 percent of the stories have women as a central focus.
- Only 3 percent of stories challenge stereotypes, compared to 6 percent
that reinforce them.
The imbalance might just be worse than this report suggests. ''I think
the survey was slightly urban-based because that is where women are
working in the news media,'' Arul Aram from The Hindu newspaper in
India, who was associated with the study told IPS. ''In rural areas
women are yet to come up.''
Copyright © 2006 IPS-Inter Press Service