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Media and Representation: Why We Need More Women As Sources

A 2013 study on gender bias found that although there have been campaigns making strides for equal representation, women are still quoted less than men in articles.

Conducted by freelance journalist Adrienne LaFrance, the study found that only about 25 percent of people quoted as experts in news stories were women.

A primary reason behind this gender imbalance is that in the cases where the majority of quoted sources were men, they were experts in fields that were dominated by men overall.

“Despite progress, the upper echelons of the worlds of politics and business – perhaps our two biggest coverage areas – continue to be dominated by men,” said Phil Corbett, associate managing editor for standards at The New York Times. “Technology, academia and top-level sports are not much better. As long as that gap exists, there will be a discrepancy in our coverage as well.”

Unconscious gender bias from journalists could also be at play. Because male sources are what we have always seen depicted in the news, it has become a norm to assume the ‘experts’ in many topics are going to be men.  

“It’s not that the cream has risen to the top and the cream is 100 percent male or 80 percent male,” said Susan Hennessey, a national security expert. “We’re failing to capture talent that exists.”

But there are a variety of tactics the media can utilize to combat gender imbalance.

For one, diversity and inclusivity go hand in hand. If more women or minorities wrote and broadcasted news, there would be a greater chance of more women or minorities being represented as sources.

A 2017 study conducted by the Women’s Media Center (WMC) analyzed over 24,000 news pieces and found that only a quarter of those were covered by women journalists.  

“Inequality defines our media,” said Julie Burton, president of WMC. “Media tells us our roles in society – it tells us who we are and what we can be.”

Another tactic would be for journalists to actively begin thinking of gender bias when gathering sources. What’s the topic of the story about? Is it gender-specific? If not, why are we only seeing one type of person quoted?

Journalists are supposed to do their best to accurately represent society. The news covered by journalists doesn’t just tell people what to think about but has the power to influence how people perceive news, which is why it’s so important to include both men and women and minorities in general in media quotes.

Featured Image by Tim Gouw on Unsplash

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