McGill University Study Proves Men Appear More Frequently In News Reports Than Women


No, it's not just your imagination: Nearly every expert interviewed or cited in written media is a man. 

A McGill University research team recently analyzed more than 2,000 U.S. newspapers, magazines and online news sources published between 1983 and 2009 and confirmed that men significantly outnumber women. Female names didn't rise above a fifth of all references, according to the report, which is line with what other studies have previously found. The most notable gap was among famous individuals at the top of various industries who made the news frequently. 

"The media focuses nearly exclusively on individuals at the top of occupational and social hierarchies, who are mostly men: CEOs, politicians, movie directors and the like," said Eran Shor, an associate professor in at McGill's department of sociology and the lead author of the study, according to Science Daily.


The researchers refer to this discrepancy as "the paper ceiling" — which, it seems, is predicated on the glass ceiling that exists in industries across society at large. For example, women compose only 5% of CEOs of the Fortune 500 Companies and 20% of the United States Senate and House of Representatives, for example. 

A history of sexism: This relatively novel explanation adds to many previous studies that have demonstrated sexism in the media industry at large. In 2014, a Women's Media Center report found that overall, men generated 62.1% of news, were on camera 68% of the time in evening broadcast news and wrote 62% of all stories in 10 of the most widely circulated newspapers in the U.S.

The issue looms large beyond news media as well. A 2015 University of Southern California study found that women had just 30.2% of the 30,835 speaking roles in the 700 top-grossing films from 2007 to 2014 (excluding 2011), as Mic's Kevin O'Keeffe reported in August. And in 2013 and 2014, women comprised 27% of primetime TV creators, writers, producers, executive producers, photography directors and editors.

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Why it matters: Considering studies show time and again that representation of women has a very real effect on media consumers, this study is significant. Susan J. Douglas summarized this point well in a 2009 Shriver Report on the topic. 

"The media — and especially (although not exclusively) the news media — may not succeed in telling us what to think, but they certainly do succeed in telling us what to think about," Douglas wrote. "This is called agenda-setting, and thus it matters if the real lives of most women are nowhere on the agenda, or if the agenda promotes the fantasy that full equality is now a reality for all women."

"By overemphasizing certain kinds of people, policies, values, and solutions, it makes imagining alternatives all the much harder," she continued. "It is time for us to take on the current 'common sense,' to smash it and to dare the country and the media not to take us seriously."

h/t Science Daily