Women are 52% of the population and 30% of guest on national talk shows in Canada.*
As a TV producer I found it hard to secure female guests after finding one that you think is the right person. Here are some insights why this is the case:
1. Child Care
Women carry more responsibility for children than their partners on average. So even when you find a woman who is able and willing to travel for an interview, she has to consider child care more often than her male counterpart before accepting. This delay alone can be enough to force a journalist on a deadline to move on.
This is an issue because many of the people journalists look to interview, those who combine experience with actively working in the field, often fall into the demographic that have young children. Those with higher levels of education, which are the people how are called by media, on average have children at an older (mid career) age.
2. Underplay Knowledge
A women is – how can I say this – on average more cerebral. Women have a tendency to question whether they are the appropriate expert to speak on the topic more so than men. Even when working as a journalist if I countered this with encouragement, based on the fact that they were clearly informed and articulate, there was greater hesitation than with a man.
As a result, women suggest speaking with a colleague or decline more often than men.
3. Saying No By Default
On deadline a journalist can be blunt – are you available yes or no? This question can be posed without great detail.
Women are more likely to start with a no. Once a ‘no’ is stated a journalist either moves on or has the uphill battle in using more detail to convince them to change their mind. Human nature is to stick with an initial position.
4. Ability to Explain / Confidence
Women on average are better able to communicate information to a wider audience. This matters for fact based coverage that needs to reach non specialists.
Yet this skill is undervalued by both genders because they see the loud and more arrogant guests on TV being ‘successful’. Plus many don’t want to get into a debate about core facts. By facts I mean things that have been proven beyond a doubt (climate is warming) that set the stage for a discussion about the details (how it is happening and what to do).
The death of TV or radio is a boring, inarticulate guest. No matter what they say few pay attention, many change the channel.
These are four over simplified, I’m trying to be honest and to the point, insights into why there is a gender gap in media interviews and more generally to spur discussion on the subject of gender equality in the media.
I encourage you to share your own experiences.
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