Post by Jane K. Stimmler, contributing Women on Business writer
Recently, I had the opportunity to attend a thought-provoking discussion at the Vision 2020 conference in Philadelphia, a national project focused on advancing gender equality by energizing the dialogue about women and leadership. The subject was Communications & Media, and the conversation pointed out the many instances of sexism in the media and offered suggestions for how women can take steps to change this problem.
Did you know that, according to The White House Project Benchmarking Women’s Progress Report, women account for only 22% of leadership positions in journalism (newspaper publishers, news directors)? And although women have been the majority of college journalism majors for over three decades, the average male to female ratio for bylines (at 11 top political/intellectual magazines) is
7 to 1. One more stat – of the top 15 media (print, online, tv, radio) corporations, ALL of the CEOs are male.
So, although we’ve seen more women as news anchors and on-air personalities, there is more to the story. The power behind the big decisions on what we read, see and hear is largely in the hands of men. Women’s points of view are nowhere near being equally represented.
Think about it. Men are making the lion’s share of the decisions about which news stories get aired/published and how they are covered. Also, by a large margin, men are the ones writing the stories in influential periodicals. This can have an enormous impact on perceptions of women. As an example of this, Dr. Erika Falk, who examined press coverage of women candidates, determined that “women candidates got less press coverage, were more likely to be described by how they look, were treated with less respect by being called by their first names or having their titles dropped, and they were less likely to have their issue stances published.”
So – what can women do to change the paradigm? The Vision 2020 panelists had a number of suggestions including: get more women focused on and energized about the subject of media coverage; let media executives and their advertisers know when you consider their programming gender-biased and tell them that you won’t support it (if women band together on this one, it will ultimately effect the bottom line); and make the most of the “new media” opportunities to represent women’s points of view by speaking out on blogs and other available online venues.
We, as women, must stand up and demonstrate we care about having our viewpoints represented and being fairly portrayed. If we sit on the sidelines and let the disparities stand, there will be little or no change in the media environment of the future.
What do you think? Please share!