The Media Gender Gap

Posted by Abbey Barrow 

The Women’s Media Center released its 2013 report on the status of women in the U.S. media, highlighting the ever-present gender gap in the American communications industries.


The full report details the presence (or lack thereof) of women in such diverse fields as newspapers, television, radio, social media, sports journalism, literature, and video games. But no matter the specific industry, the WMC concludes that a great disparity still exits between men and women working in the media.

Despite a diverse U.S. population, which is 51 percent female, the WMC’s report found that the old boy’s club is still very much at play, especially among the nation’s newspapers and print publications. The report cites that “By a nearly 3 to 1 margin, male front-page bylines at top newspapers outnumbered female bylines in coverage of the 2012 presidential election. Men were also far more likely to be quoted than women in newspapers, television and public radio.”

Leadership in print publications is also overwhelmingly male with far fewer female editors. This discrepancy also translates to a pay gap for the females who do have a leadership or editor role with America’s newspapers and magazines. In fact, The Atlantic recently found that female editors make $15,000 less than their male counterparts.

Yet, the media gender gap may not be just an American issue. The Guardian in the UK published a story last year about how of all Britain’s national papers, only one of them had a female editor.

With a progression into new forms of online journalism and social media, comes more opportunities for women according the WMC study, but still not an answer to the media gender gap. Women outnumber men on social media, but “newer, online-only news sites have fallen into the same rut as legacy media. Male bylines outnumbered female bylines at four of six sites reviewed.”

Heading into the rest of 2013, has the media industry come far enough in its acceptance of women? The Huffington Post refers to the male dominated media as a “crisis”, but is the issue of a media gender gap overblown or is there a significant problem with the lack of female representation in the communications industries?

Photo via WBUR


14 responses to “The Media Gender Gap

  1. I find this really sad, and I would agree with The Huffington Post, this is a crisis. It is well known that in many jobs men are paid more than women to complete the same tasks, and that most CEOs are male. I’m disappointed that the media industry is no exception. I understand that this topic sometimes devours headlines, but I do not think it is overblown — one female editor out of all Britain’s national newspapers, and an average $15,00 difference between men and women in this industry, suggests a serious equality problem that must be addressed.

    • You make a good point in that this issue is not just relegated to the communications industry, but may be a nation-wide, or even global, societal issue. I was also really surprised by the British editor stats and would like to look into how many editors of major US publications are females. Although, it’s more than one, the most famous news editors are still male. It will be interesting to see how these gender dynamics change in the coming years and if the news media makes strides toward equality.

  2. Looking at the guy to girl ratio in the J-School I think its safe to say that the current demographics of females in high journalism positions are subject to change in the next few years. But a $15,000 difference in pay checks between men and women editors in the industry is beyond sad. This was a wonderful article we kind of got carried away with blog about Twitter, great way to break up the content and publish quality blog. Not many journalist address serious issues like these.

    • There is a really interesting discrepancy between the amount of female journalism students and the amount of females holding leadership positions or earning bylines in the news media. I think you’re right in that the gender gap may very well change in the coming years. However, the report brought up that many female J-school grads may choose fields other than strict news writing. “Women who just graduated from a journalism and mass communications program are slightly more likely to land a job than men, but they are also more likely to pursue work in public relations or advertising”. I guess we’ll just have to see what happens as the new influx of J-school grads make their way into the workforce.

  3. This is certainly not the news that gets young female journalism students excited about job prospects. It is frustrating to read that women make less in the same positions, but I would agree that the discrepancy in bylines might also be explained as more than what it appears at the surface level. There are a wide variety of other careers women might be pursuing to put journalism degrees to good work. Maybe they don’t want to deadline based career that would get them the byline. For women who want to write and be a parent some may leave the field when they have children which does at times mean they will not get into higher positions. Other women might be choosing to become professors rather than seeking higher positions at publications.

    I think like most other industries the journalism field could still benefit from a more equal playing field for men and women; however, strides have been made and great female role models like Barbra Walters offer an example of the changes that have already taken place.

    • I think you’re right in that this data cannot be seen as conclusive evidence of women’s repression in the media industries. In fact, there are a lot of other factors that can explain why women are somewhat absent from these fields. However, the issue of pay gap is a problem which definitively needs a solution. Hopefully, the positive female forces in the media can propel us towards that necessary change.

  4. Abbey, my post this week is very similar to yours. I talked about how women’s bylines are still not very prominent in major newspapers. I also wrote about men being quoted more than women in stories in print and on TV and radio. In my research I did find that more women were writing op-eds in these newspapers and college newspaper staffs are dominated more by female writers. I think we can all agree with that since Drake’s J School is predominantly females. Hopefully, this means that some of these gender gapes will change!

    • I’m glad you went more into depth with this issue. I also found that editorials and op-eds had more women writer than strictly news business. Perhaps this reflects that new media is creating more opportunities for women while the old newsrooms have quite made a progressive shift yet. However, I agree that such a change will very likely come about in the next few generations.

  5. Raquel Rivera

    To be honest, I never knew this was an issue! I knew that woman got paid less than males to do the same tasks but not by $15,000! That’s crazy. Looking at our J-school ratio, this might be subject to change. As for the males being quoted more is just unacceptable, why is that? If there is 1% more woman on this Earth wouldn’t it make more sense for the women to be quoted more?
    I do not think this issue is overblown because I didn’t know it was an issue. There should be more reporting on it.
    On a different note- I really enjoyed this blog because it was something new and not just about how great social media is with spreading the news but about how such a system can have flaws too.

    • I was also really surprised by the pay gap issues I uncovered, and I also agree that we are most likely in the process of a demographic shift in the industry. We, as journalists need to work to make sure we’re covering a diverse range of topics and interviewing a diverse array of sources. Editors can also help point out when we fall short of this goal and give us tips fro more accurately representing the population in our stories.

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