The media and film industry can shape cultural perceptions and attitudes towards gender for better or worse. 

Gender stereotypes and underrepresentation in media can contribute to harmful disrespect and violence towards women. Children are influenced by gendered stereotypes in media from a young age, which can perpetuate preferences for gender-appropriate content and activities, traditional beliefs of gender roles occupations and personalities, and attitudes towards life expectations and aspirations.

Creating news by, for, and about women is a necessary step toward advancing gender equality and ensuring that women and girls can have equal opportunities for education, employment, and well-being. When marginalized groups, including women and girls, people of color, and people with disabilities, don’t see themselves represented they lack the modeling to thrive.

Check out the facts below and learn more about why we must all work to make sure women get better representation in media — and you can make a start right now by taking action with us here to get more women on Wikipedia. 

1. Women only make up around 20% of expert news sources. 

Unconscious bias, tight deadlines, lack of women’s leadership across industries, and cultural challenges all affect journalists’ ability to include women experts. Experts also get put in boxes by ingrained cultural beliefs. 

The lack of inclusion of women experts has serious consequences. When male experts are prioritized, women’s hard work and contributions are devalued and they are robbed of the recognition and public acclaim they deserve. Excluding women with expertise in their fields also reinforces the idea that women’s roles are to assist men in their work. The imbalance in sources can also be linked to the higher percentage of men in positions of power and authority, and women’s tendencies to be less overconfident in their expertise due to societal conditioning. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has further highlighted the gender discrepancy among news experts. An analysis of more than 146,800 COVID-19 related articles from 15 major news sites in the US, the UK, and Australia showed that women were only a third of all those quoted about the pandemic, and were only a quarter of those quoted on epidemiology and public health questions.

Women were also more than twice as likely as men to be quoted in articles related to the pandemic’s impact on child care and domestic violence, but fewer than 1 in 6 women were quoted for financial and economic stories. 

2. Only 24% of the people in newspaper, television, and radio news are women.

The Global Media Monitoring Project (GMMP) conducted in 2015 the largest study on the portrayal, participation, and representation of women in the news media spanning 20 years and 114 countries, and found that less than a quarter of news sources are women. When women are featured in the news, meanwhile, they are more likely to speak on their personal experience, popular opinion, or to provide eyewitness accounts.  

If gender equality in society mirrors gender equality in the news, it will take at least three-quarters of a century to reach gender parity. 

3. Only 4% of traditional news and digital news stories explicitly challenge gender stereotypes. 

Reinforcing stereotypes is harmful because it limits all people's capacity to develop their skills, pursue the professional careers of their choice, and have agency over their lives. 

Almost half of news stories — 46% — reinforce gender stereotypes, according to media content analysis conducted by the International Labour Organization (ILO). ILO concluded that media representation normalizes the exclusion of women and girls. What’s more, print and digital media tend to portray women stereotypically, depicting women as wives or mothers, submissive, suffering, only in the context of the home or as another woman’s enemy.

4. Women are only the subject of political and governmental coverage 16% of the time. 

The lack of women’s representation in politics is global. Women were three percentage points less visible in political coverage in the GMMP’s 2015 study than they were five years prior. 

Women only serve as heads of state or government in 22 countries, while there are 119 countries that still have never had a woman leader. In fact, women are not expected to be equal with men in the highest positions of power for another 130 years. And yet all societies stand to benefit from more women leaders, as women’s political participation often improves democracy, centers citizens’ needs, increases cooperation across party and cultural lines, and promotes a more sustainable future. 

5. Only 6% of news stories highlight issues of gender equality or inequality.

The lack of attention given to gender equality issues reflects the minimal exposure women’s stories receive in the media in general. 

If the inequalities that women face aren’t publicized, many people might have a hard time believing that there are even issues that need to be addressed. Women also are led to believe that their experiences aren’t valid if the challenges and barriers they encounter are ignored. Highlighting gender equality gains, meanwhile, can also provide society with the hope that the world is moving in the right direction.

6. Women reporters are only responsible for 37% of stories.

When women have a seat at the table they are more likely to advocate for other women. A lack of representation in newsrooms and media companies means that women receive fewer opportunities to share the stories of other women and the issues that impact their lives. Women journalists are also twice as likely to challenge gender stereotypes in their reporting than male journalists. 

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6 Unbelievable Facts About How Badly Women Are Represented in Media

By Leah Rodriguez