Media urged to do more for female representation


The worst areas for female representation were sports, where men were 95 per cent of direct sources, business and finance (82 per cent), law, crime and justice (79 per cent) and 41 per cent for celebrities.

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Women’s Leadership Institute Australia founder Carol Schwartz, who is a Reserve Bank board member and director at property giant Stockland, expressed disappointment at the lack of progress on the issue.

“There has been so little change,” she told a launch event in Melbourne. “It is really disappointing and discouraging.”

As well as media organisations addressing the issue, Ms Schwartz said women needed take up the opportunity to be part of public discussions.

“A lot of feedback we used to get from women was ‘really why would I put my reputation on the line by talking to a journalist’,” she said.

“That attitude is still incredibly prevalent. We were hoping that over the ensuing years that we would get enough women as role models out there so that would no longer be a fear for women.”

She urged senior women to put themselves forward and push themselves out of their comfort zone and encouraged the media to work on the disparity between the prominence given to men and women.

UTS senior lecturer Jenna Price, who conducted the research alongside Anne-Maree Payne, said there was a need to get more women to write about subjects such as federal politics and business.

“Women write about royals and men write about political leaders. Men write about sport, women write about media, the arts and entertainment,” the report said.

Women were also less likely to be in photos accompanying major stories and 80 per cent of the photographers who received a byline were men.

“Women journalists occupy that important top space just under half the time but here’s what
the figures show: men’s voices as sources are louder and prouder. Across our data set
from all of the sites analysed, the average representation of female sources was just over one-third.

Only one site of those analysed, Buzzfeed, quoted more women than men. The report noted the publication focused on celebrity, media, arts and entertainment stories which were more likely to be written by women and quote women as sources. Second-ranked was 9News, quoting women 45 per cent of the time, with the last-ranked Financial Review found to quote women 14 per cent of the time.

Female journalists were likely to quote women more often, with 65 per cent on Buzzfeed quoting women, followed by 9News, with about half of sources quoted by female reporters at The Age and The Guardian being women.

Managing director of the Financial Review, Joanne Gray, said in the report the masthead were aware of the issue and had been “reflecting the business world, which has been notoriously glacial in its efforts to promote women into leadership positions” and were putting together a database of women to speak to in future.

News.com.au editor in chief Kate De Brito said the publication was “not averse” to women’s voices and “know instinctively that women’s voices can bring a different light to things” but didn’t back the idea of telling journalists they had to find women to speak to for an article.

ABC director of news Gaven Morris said in the report the public broadcaster tracked its content a couple of years back and “had a real wake-up call” as there wasn’t enough gender diversity.

The ABC is now encouraging staff to seek out female experts, inspired by UK public broadcaster BBC’s 50:50 project, and focus more on female readers.

Mathew Dunckley is business editor for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age. Based in our Melbourne newsroom, Mathew has almost 20 years experience as a journalist and editor.

Jennifer Duke is a media and telecommunications journalist for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.

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