Humanity

Women Only Mentioned in Media 18% of the Time

October 9, 2015 | Kelly Tatera

Man speaking into journalists' microphones
Photo credit: www.audio-luci-store.it/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Society has made huge strides toward a gender-equal world. So why do 82 percent of the names mentioned in the media still belong to men?

It may come as a surprise to some that the media, the main outlet where social issues like gender equality can be discussed and publicized, severely under-reports women. In fact, for every 5 names mentioned in the media, there’s only 1 woman mentioned. Researchers in the sociology department at McGill University found that 82 percent of the names in the media are men’s.

Surprisingly, liberal media outlets didn’t have a higher representation of women than conservative ones, nor did those with women editors-in-chief or managing editors. The researchers sifted through more than 2,000 U.S. newspapers, magazines, and online news sources published throughout 1983 to 2009. Despite the social advancements that have been made in society, the media still focuses predominantly on men, something the researchers call a “paper ceiling.”

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"The persistent gap in media coverage is due to a combination of the media's preoccupation with leaders at the expense of everyone else and the well-known 'glass ceiling' that continues to block off working women's access to leadership positions," lead author Eran Shor, an associate professor in the Department of Sociology at McGill University, said in a press release.

Shor continued, “The media focuses nearly exclusively on individuals at the top of occupational and social hierarchies, who are mostly men: CEOs, politicians, movie directors, and the like."

Men dominated the media, not only in sections like sports and business, but even in those that would be expected to have women in the lead, like entertainment. While it may seem like the media just can’t get enough of pop sensations like Taylor Swift and Beyonce, it’s still not enough to outshine men.

"The entertainment coverage may be especially surprising because people tend to believe that female celebrities are just as, if not more, famous and draw at least equal amounts of attention as their male counterparts," said Shor. However, this isn’t the case since most prominent directors and producers in the entertainment industry are men, and most high-revenue movies have more male roles than female ones.
Essentially, the gender disparity in the media won’t undergo a major shift until women break through the male monopolization of the highest occupational positions. Hopefully women will continue to snatch those CEO spots and infiltrate currently male-dominant fields, like engineering, to show media outlets that they’ve been neglecting a critical component of their editorial duties.

Based on materials provided by McGill University.

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