For a long time, there’s been talk of sexism in the media, and the current Leveson saga brought the issue to the forefront once more. Charlotte Church expressed her disgust, and said that the presentation of women in the UK press “erodes everything that women have been trying to build for years”.
And now it seems that there’s data to support this view, as latest research reveals that the front pages of British newspapers are dominated by sexist stereotypes, humiliating photographs of women and male bylines.
According to the investigation, which was carried out by the industry body Women in Journalism (WiJ), a huge 78% of front-page articles are written by men, and 84% of those quoted or mentioned are male.
Also, the only females to be regularly pictured throughout the study’s four week duration were the Duchess of Cambridge, Pippa Middleton, and Madeleine McCann.
It has to be pointed out that there was greater gender equality in the photographs used on front pages, however, there was not a single female politician or leader in the top 10 images. Where powerful women were featured, the photos were often unflattering, for instance of Theresa May and Angela Merkel, and there were few pictures in which women looked powerful and serious.
So what can these findings tell us? Well, they probably only confirm what we already knew, but the research has undoubtedly stirred up the issue once more. It also backs up past results, for example, previous US research has found that, even when it comes to ‘women’s issues’ such as abortion and birth control, men are quoted around five times more than women.
The portrayal of females is a widespread issue across the media – we only have to think back to the rows with the BBC over ageism and sexism involving newsreader Moira Stewart and Strictly’s Arlene Philips. It’s not a new problem, nor is it going to go away overnight, but it is something that we all need to wake up to.
I often write on behalf of clients on the importance of diversity for your organisation – encouraging women into your team can add huge value, bringing different ideas and new skills. But the media has a huge influence over how women are presented. So, if we are to continue to strive for a diverse workforce, we need to have a socially responsible press, reflecting the views of women as well as men.