Women Experts Exist But We Don’t See Them

Published: 28 April 2014

Country: UK

Science_and_Invention_Television_1928What comes first to your mind when you hear the word “expert”? If it is a man wearing black suit and a tie, it is probably the most expected image for many of the people living in the UK taking as granted that our perception for reality is much influenced by mainstream media.

Recent research showed that male experts still outnumber female by a ratio of four to one on flagship news programmes while most women interviewed for news programmes are not referred as experts whereas men are. On the top of that, male reporters are three times more than their female colleagues.

The survey conducted by City University London and Broadcast Magazine’s Expert Women revealed that there is no improvement in the representation of women on flagship news programmes in the last two years. The reasons for this underrepresentation are many and one should not only criticize the media.

According to journalists interviewed for the research, 82% answered that they actively try to get women experts. From the side of women, 71% of the female experts surveyed said they lacked self-confidence, feared criticism and were worried about being assertive, characteristics of the so-called ‘pushy’ syndrome. From them, the 39% have also said that they were concerned about their appearance. Other interesting findings are that most male experts speak for longer than female experts and they are the ones who are much more visible when the discussion comes to politics.

“Things are changing but very slowly. Journalists want to get women on air, and women want to do it, but there are few role models, and there is still some resistance in conservative pockets of the profession” noticed Lis Howell, Director of Broadcasting at City University London and leader of the research.

Lis Howell along with other academics, researchers and senior news executives discussed the results of the survey in the ‘Women on Air’ conference that has been held in the beginning of April. The conference has been followed on Twitter by many users who posted their comments during the sessions under the hashtag #womenonair. The National Union of Journalists wrote “Broadcasting landscape already socially engineered – it is white, middle class, middle aged, men #equalitynow #womenonair”. “In broadcasting, should men refuse to be on all male panels? Maybe that would change things.” suggested also the user @Lindajpatt.

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