There Is Still a Long Way to Go Before the Media Industry Achieves Gender Equality

The Women’s Media Center (WMC) recently released its 2021 report on women in the media in the United States. The Status of Women in the United States Media 2021 includes research from academia, industry and professional groups, labor unions, media watchdogs, and newsrooms, as well as original WMC research, such as WMC Divided 2021: The Media Gender Gap, which demonstrated that gender inequality in America’s newsrooms persists across all media platforms, with men receiving 65 percent of bylines and credits and women receiving only 34 percent in 2021. The Women’s Media Center (WMC) compiled the research. 

The report “demonstrates that while there have been some advancements, across all spheres of media, [the] representation and visibility of women are still critically lacking,” according to Julie Burton, President and CEO of the Women’s Media Center. This has implications for both democratic discourse and the media. 

Women make up 51 percent of the population in the United States, but only 34 percent of journalists who cover the news, according to the Women’s Media Center. How can the public learn about and understand the opinions, problems, experiences, and lives of more than half of the population if women are not allowed to tell half of the stories? “In addition, the Women’s Media Center’s goal is to promote greater gender and racial equality in the news media of the United States,” Burton added. 

According to Erica González Martnez, a member of the WMC board of directors, women must be present at all levels of decision-making and work across news organizations for the media to provide accurate, fair, and sophisticated reporting. 

The Women’s Media Center stated, “The data gathered and reports produced by the Women’s Media Center are essential tools for raising uncomfortable but urgent conversations about the need for the media to not simply say better, but do better — today.” “The conversation must center on the need for the media to do better — not just say better — today.” 

One of the Women’s Media Center’s co-founders, Gloria Steinem, stated that “this research will help to hold news media accountable for the persistent disparities in media.” 

“Women must be prominent and powerful in all aspects of media if there is to be true democracy in American culture,” one author writes. 

Janet Dewart Bell, chairwoman of the WMC Board of Directors, stated that women’s advancement in media is moving too slowly. There is a lot of work to be done if we want to achieve genuine equality and inclusion in the media. 

The Following Are Some of the Report’s Highlights

In various forms of news media, including print, online-only media, radio, and television

According to the WMC, no Indigenous women and only one woman of Middle Eastern or North African descent appeared as guests on any of the top five Sunday television news talk shows in 2020. Asian American women accounted for 0.6 percent of the 1,671 guest appearances, Latinx women accounted for 2%, Black women accounted for 9%, and White women accounted for 20%. Even when the topic was racial justice, the majority of the guests were white men, who accounted for 53% of all appearances. 

Women made up 44.7 percent of the workforce at local TV news stations in 2019, a slight decrease from the previous year’s record high of 44.9 percent. According to the Radio Television Digital News Association, the proportion of white people working in local television fell from 74.1 percent to 73.4 percent during the same time period (RTDNA). 

According to Talkers, none of the top 100 radio sports talk show personalities were female. This applies to both hosts and guests

According to the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, racial diversity was the top priority for 42 percent of newsroom leaders who responded to a nationwide survey of newsrooms following the death of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer. Gender diversity was the top priority for 18% of those newsroom executives. 

According to a survey of female journalists in the United States conducted by the Department of Communication at Seattle University, 79 percent of the 115 respondents believed that online harassment affected press freedom, and some of the respondents added that the fear of receiving online abuse caused them to avoid reporting on certain types of stories. 

Women controlled 5.3 percent of the nation’s 1,368 full-power commercial TV stations in 2016, down 7.3 percent from the previous year, according to the Federal Communications Commission. People of color owned 1.9 percent of the homes, down from 2.6 percent in 2015. 

In terms of film, television, and streaming media

According to the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film, female characters played only 29 percent of the leading roles in the top 100 films of 2020. This represents an 11% decrease from the number of female protagonists in leading roles in 2019. 

According to Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media research, black women made up 6.5 percent of the total population of the United States but only 3.7 percent of the leading or co-leading roles in the 100 highest grossing films of the decade ending in 2019. 

According to the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative and the National Association of Latino Independent Producers, from 2007 to 2018, 4.5 percent of a total of 47,268 characters in the top 100 highest-grossing films were Latinx; 3 percent of films featured Latinx actors as leads; and 49 percent of these lead or co-lead roles, or 17, went to women. This information was compiled from the top 100 highest-grossing films. 

According to the Directors Guild of America, for the first time ever, women and people of color directed more than half of all entertainment TV episodes during the 2018-19 season. 

According to the WMC, men will continue to dominate the non-acting categories of the Primetime Emmy Awards in 2021. They received only 65 percent of the preliminary accolades, compared to 68 percent in 2020. 

There were 773 regular characters on prime-time shows on traditional broadcast networks during the 2020-21 television season. 9.1 percent, or 70, of these characters were lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer. According to GLAAD, this represented a decrease from the previous year’s all-time high of 10.2 percent. 

In technological fields such as social media, gaming, and engineering

The most successful female tournament player earned only 7% of what the most successful male gamer earned. 

People with disabilities, women, African Americans, Latinos, Native Americans, and Native Alaskans, according to the National Science Foundation, were underrepresented in science and engineering, including sectors that feed the pipeline to jobs in technology, gaming, software development, social media, and other media. Native Alaskans have historically been underrepresented in science and engineering. 

According to Lee and Low’s findings, 7,893 people worked in book publishing companies, book review publications, and literary agencies. Seventy-four percent were female, twenty-three percent were male, and seventy-six percent were White.