Plenty has been written about a shortage of women in the newsroom.
Last December a study by Guardian journalist Kira Cochrane suggested that 78% of articles that appeared in British national dailies were written by men.
Last February a group of German journalists got together to complain that, in the German newspaper industry, just 2% of editors-in-chief were women.
The same month, the group VIDA: Women in Literary Arts published a study suggesting that the overwhelming majority of articles in major literary magazines had male authors.
Now, a fresh study has been published, which indicates that women are also being severely under-represented in op-ed writing as well. Poynter reports on a byline survery conducted by the OpEd Project, which suggests that although there have been significant improvements in the proportion of women authoring opinion articles, the subjects they write on still continue to be stereotypical female – food, family, furniture and fashion.
The study notes that, even including these subjects, many more men that women are still publishing op-eds: women wrote just 20% of opinion pieces published in traditional media, 33% of those published via new media and 38% of those in college publications. As Poynter reports, the study looked at more than 7,000 articles, published between September 17 and December 7 2011 in 10 US media outlets.
Despite the still large proportion of men authoring op-eds, the study found that the proportion of women publishing opinion pieces has improved. Poynter notes, for example, that the number of op-eds by women in The New York Times was 17% in 2005, and has now risen to 22%.
Nevertheless, there is clearly still a long way to go, and different publications have been discussing how to get more women to start writing op-eds on a diverse range of subjects. The Atlantic Wire reports on an event organised by a group called Her Girl Friday, named “Throw like a girl: pitching the hell out of your stories.” The event brought together a panel of journalists and editors to discuss why fewer female journalists were being published. As The Atlantic Wire reports, the group seemed to agree that the gender gap was “not purely based in sexism or gender bias” but was also tied up with a lack of confidence from female journalists.
Poynter reports on the same event, and quotes the panel’s host, Amy O’Leary, a reporter for The New York Times, who said she would spend weeks or even months trying to get her pitches just right, while her male colleagues would throw together a story pitch in a day.
“I was afraid to take the leap,” says O’Leary, quoted by Poynter, “Early on, I lacked the confidence to pitch as much as I wanted.”
However, The Atlantic Wire rejects the idea that the low proportion of female bylines is entirely to do with a lack of confidence: “surely there are guy journalists who are crushed by rejections, too?” writes author Jen Doll.
The Colombia Journalism Review points out the lack of diversity in the newsroom is by no means limited to gender. “Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR), showed one-half of one percent of op-eds in The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal were written by Latinos; in The Washington Post, it was 0 percent. Asian Americans authored an average of 2 percent; blacks roughly 5 percent (though that rate was lifted by the Post’s 10 percent),” notes the article.
Image via The OpEd Project