Women in the media: men feature 2.5 times more often than women

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While some progress has been made in recent years, the presence and treatment of women in the media remains a hanging challenge. There are 2.5 more news stories about men than about women, who are cited 21% less in the headlines. Not only are they still underrepresented and more anonymous, when they do appear, there is more often an explicit mention of gender or family, yet their names appear 50% less often. Economics, politics, technology and sports are the sectors where the gap is most glaring. These are just a few of the conclusions drawn from the ‘Nameless Women’ report released by LLYC as part of M8, International Women’s Day. 

LLYC’s Deep Digital Business team conducted this study following a rigorous analysis of 14 million news items published during the last year that explicitly mentioned gender in the 12 countries where the consultancy operates (Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Spain, United States, Mexico, Panama, Peru, Portugal, and the Dominican Republic). This research involved Transformer-based models and LLM (Large Language Models) in conjunction with NLP (Natural Language Processing) techniques.

We can exemplify the findings detected in the study: we find ourselves with a news item that, in general, would not mention the protagonist in the headline and, at most, would refer to her as a secondary category with the female classifier. We might read: “A woman could become the next President of the United States,” rather than “Real first name + last name, a staunch candidate for the U.S. presidency.” This could seem to be economy of language, but the truth is that it is biased, it is not informative and it makes women invisible. 

“The image of women in the media is improving, but there is still a long way to go. The kind of female role models we are projecting to new generations and future decision-makers is still distorted. We continue to talk little about them and often in a biased way. I truly believe that greater prominence for female talent and for women in general will accelerate equality,” explains Luisa García, Chief Operating Officer (COO) of LLYC and coordinator of this report. 

These are the nine headlines drawn from the report:  

1. Women are underrepresented: While news coverage has increased and improved considerably thanks to the emergence of gender correspondents, the media published 2.5 times more news stories about men than women in the last year.

2. They are nameless women: women’s real names appear 21% less in headlines than men’s. Their names appear 40% less in relevant topics such as sports, science, leadership and cinema. Readers are thus reading articles about nameless women.

3. The female classifier: explicit reference to gender is 2.3 times more frequent in women than in men. When mentions of the “female classifier” are stronger, the article is proportionally less likely to cite the woman’s own name. This semantic subordination relegates them to a secondary and trivial role.

4. Men publish more: in most countries, men write 50% more articles than women. The sections on health, events, society and culture are where most women authors are found (at around 45%), while men tend to write about economics, politics, technology and sports.

5. Women and their families, still inseparable in the news: the media mentions the family 36% more in news stories about women, and they do so in a objectifying way. Business news covering women include the term “family” 366% more often than when covering men (4 times more), and 191% more frequently in science news (twice as much).

6. Appearance is still a burden:  news articles on fashion talk about women more than men. How women dress is reflected in 1 out of every 25 news items, 20% more than when news items talk about men.

7. Double victimization when covering gender-based violence: the focus is still on the victim rather than the aggressor. Women are mentioned almost 3 times more than men when talking about gender-based violence and twice as many in situations of harassment. When he is mentioned, the term “woman” is 20% more likely to appear in the headline than “man”. When the names of the victims are exposed, the perpetrator’s name is often obscured by his alias.

8. Sport, a man’s playing field: only 5% of the enormous volume of news published on sports explicitly mentions women. Women’s news accounts for only 1 in 20. In fact, soccer is perceived as men’s soccer in 95% of the cases.

9. Being good is not enough, women must be exceptionally good: women are often portrayed in the media as successful and outstanding. For example, news articles about women politicians highlight their successes 50% more and minimize their errors when they are compared to male leaders. This accentuates the impostor syndrome and burnout in women seeking greater exposure and visibility.