Over the course of many years researchers have been studying the under representation of women in the media. When we think about “news worthy” people we tend to think about presidents, governors, CEOs, and military leaders. A vast majority of the time these people end up being men. According to Adrienne LaFrance’s article in The Atlantic, there is a male dominance happening in the media. They are making more money, getting more bylines, more time on camera, and are even being quoted more by a 3:1 ratio.
Big names like Forbes and BBC have men quoted in about 81% of their stories published. Most of the time a woman is used in a news story photo for “eye candy” and are more likely to appear visually over textually quoted. Unfortunately, women are losing the visual battle as well.
The Pew Research Center published a study on May 23, 2019 using Facebook news outlet’s photos and it shows just how under represented women are in the media. Out of all the faces shown in the images, about 1/3 of those faces were women. Of all the images looked at about 33% included women and about 22% featured exclusively women. Another study done at the University of Bristol and Cardiff University analyzed over 2.3 million articles published over a six month period. They said whenever a woman does show up in the news, it is often as something nice to look at. In turn, this reinforces a woman’s value as a source of “visual pleasure” over the content of their views.
A research paper conducted by Stony Brook University and McGill University says the “The media focuses nearly exclusively on the highest strata of occupational and social hierarchies, in which women’s representation has remained poor.” This misrepresentation spans across multiple parts of the media.
Pew Research Center, as well as LaFrance from The Atlantic, mention the size of the images used for each gender. It appears that images of men appear larger when the topic is related to the economy, immigration, and the obvious one, sports. Women’s photos appeared larger for things related to entertainment: music, movies, or TV.
I conducted a little bit of research on my own for this topic and decided to interview my two friends Brandon, 28 of Bloomsburg, and Olivia, 23 of Danville. After giving them some background information on the topic along with reading my current research they had some good outsider insight. Women are typically depicted as “homely” or “loving” and have been seen that way for a very long time which leaves little room for serious topics.
“I feel the general population would rather be entertained or cared for by women and because of that they don’t always take them seriously,” Brandon said. Olivia feels people are just “blind about it.” “Before you told me about it I didn’t even notice the issue,” she said. The two also agreed that women worry about how they are perceived to the public more than men which makes them more reluctant to take photos, especially for the news.
When asked what changes could be made to help change this, their answers varied a bit. Brandon feels not enough people care about the issue to act on it. Olivia jumped on that answer with exactly what she said in the beginning… “It isn’t very noticeable.” She feels the topic needs to be talked about more. “There are tons of women’s movements going on, just add it to the list,” she said. Another point Olivia had made was about social media presence and influencers.
A good portion of the social media presence on platforms such as Instagram and Twitter are females. Within those platforms we have people known as “influencers.” These people, mainly women, display their lifestyle to influence people into owning those items. Again this shows how women are more used for less serious topics like clothing and home decor.
For years many researchers have been studying the under representation of women in the media. The role of men has been defined as serious and women not so serious. Women’s media presence is nothing to laugh at, we are there killing it in our own worlds. But the lack of representation in news outlets needs a shift. Just like my interviewee Olivia, I too had no idea this issue was even well… an issue. Spreading the word should be our first step. Placing more women into serious roles like the government is a great direction to aim for to allow for more representation in the news outlets. More women in power, more photos of women in power.