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Why the Paucity of Women in Media is a Global Crisis

Gains have been stagnant in print, digital and broadcast representation and employment of women for years.

The bad news is I will be 126 years old when women reach parity in government, politics, business and non-profit leadership in the United States, according to a distressing and depressing report that came out last week from the Women's Media Center. " The Status of Women in the US Media" states fairness will arrive in 2085 if we continue at this rate of change. 

More bad news is I will never see it. 

Add to that bitter pill the overwhelming data in this report supporting the notion that women may never reach parity in the American news media. Gains have been stagnant in print, digital and broadcast representation and employment of women for years. Though this is only the second year this report has been published, there have not been measurable gains across the board in that time - if at all. 

And as I will pass before I see the glory days of gender equity, my obituary likely won't make the news; in six major newspapers, the study found obituaries of notable women accounted for an average of 23 percent of the subjects last year. While I am fairly certain death has no gender preference, that may be news to the  Boston Globe, where last year only 19 percent of obituaries were about women compared to a high of 28 percent of women lauded post mortem in the  Chicago Tribune.   

Even in the afterworld, the ladies don't get a break. 

Women in media

With no growth in seven years for women counted by Fortune 500 as members of boards of directors, the status quo remains at 16.6 percent for women seated at those glossy tables. While  Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer of Facebook, jumps to the top at No 8 in Fortune's 50 Most Powerful Women in Business, her new book out mid-March,  Lean In: Women, Work and The Will to Lead, has already come under fire and feminist attack for what some call its pie-in-the-sky, elitist notions of "we're all in this together".  

Much media brouhaha has ensued about the highly successful Sandberg's vision of shifting the power dynamic for all women through community outreach, education and smaller circles of women given an open-source agenda and urged to submit their happy stories of success. Sandberg's release last week of her  Lean In Foundation & Movement mission "to create a global community dedicated to encouraging women to lean into their ambitions" arrived in my inbox within hours of this 2013 Women's Media Centre report.

I say, why the heck not give Sandberg's vision a try? As painstakingly delineated in the Women's Media Centre report, the news is so bleak for women as represented in all media that this is akin to the global climate change crisis. True, gender inequity will not end the planet as we know it, as global warming will. It's just that billions of its inhabitants may wish it would in order to start over with something a little more fair. 

This is our shrinking glacier: Women were not quoted as frequently as men in newspaper reports, TV or radio stories as sources, nor did they appear nearly as often on Sunday TV talk shows as guests. The gap is not small. And it totally matters because if you rarely see women as authority speaking, you wrongly believe that women have little to say. 

Between January and November 2012, in a study of 37 newspapers from the  New York Times to the  Traverse City Record Eagle in Michigan, women were quoted in 20 percent of all stories about the election.  

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