In an article in the November/December issue of Extra!, a publication put out by FAIR (Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting), writer Jessica Wakeman looks at data accumulated from the hugely popular blog, Huffington Post, as well as from other news and opinion forums, both online and print, showing that women’s voices are still woefully underrepresented. Over a nine week period from early July to early September of this year, the 1,125 stories displayed on the front page of The Huffington Post, for instance, included only 255 bylines by women (And 57 of those were written by site founder and editor-in-chief Arianna Huffington herself). These findings, as Wakeman explains, mirror similar trends in print media–other recent surveys, showed that major print news sources representation of female voices in their op-eds were similarly dismal. U.S. News & World Report led the pack with 28 percent of op-eds written by women, followed by Newsweek at 23 percent, Time at 13 percent, and the New York Times and Washington Post coming in at a dismal 17 and 10 percent respectively.
As Wakeman argues, this is not as simple as a lack of available women’s voices, although she encourages women to take greater initiative in writing letters to the editor and submitting work for publication. She points out that in other sections of Huffington Post, gender distribution of content approaches a more equal representation–it is in the editorial assessments of which work makes it onto the main page that women often lose out. She quotes Women in Media & News founder Jennifer L. Pozner who says :
We need to hold media outlets accountable for gender and racial imbalances in the editorial process that governs which submissions get published and rejected—and for actively soliciting material far more often from white men than women and people of color.
I absolutely agree that this is the case. In my experiences with the media, both as a participant and a consumer, I have frequently been struck by what a patriarchal “old boy’s club” still exists in journalism and intellectual elites. It somehow seems counterintuitive to me that such educated, often liberal-minded people would still participate in reifying such patriarchal structures and patterns, but, too often that is the case. More attention and pressure needs to be put on these issues. Acknowledgement and increased accountability will be crucial to rectifying these structural imbalances. These issues exist around the world and public attention on and discussion of them has proven successful in countries like China, where the 1995 Fourth United Nations Conference on Women held in Beijing (and attended by then-First Lady Hillary Clinton) was responsible for huge increases in women’s voices in the media, much of it spawned by the resulting creation of the Women’s Media Watch Network, a NGO watchdog and advocacy group committed to monitoring gender inequality across various Chinese media forms. Of course, China still has far to go toward achieving greater gender equality and balance in the media. But raising the profile of this reality in this country and around the world is an important first step, one I hope the incoming Obama administration will take steps to address.
Here is Wakeman’s article.