How often are women quoted in the mainstream media? About a fifth of the time, concludes a study by the Women’s Leadership Institute Australia (WLIA) finds.

The Women for Media Report 2016, conducted during a three-week period in February, showed that in more than 6000 articles, women comprised just 21% of directly quoted sources.

The analysis included articles from general news, business news, finance news and “opinion” sections, as lifestyle and arts have receded in recent years and weren’t a “significant sample” for quotes. The print media used in the research sample included The Australian Financial Review, The Australian, The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald, the Herald Sun and The Daily Telegraph. 

There amount of female representation varied widely from publication to publication; quotes from female sources were used anywhere from 15% to a maximum of 30% of the time.

Amy Mullins, executive director of the Women’s Leadership Institute Australia, said: “Women make up 50% of the population, and our news coverage should reflect that. It’s about the presence of men and women … setting hard targets and working towards this goal of 50/50.”

One reason women are so underrepresented in the media is that because they are underrepresented in roles of power in politics and business.

The 45th Parliament of Australia is 32% female. In Australian politics, the Liberal frontbench is composed of 25% women while the Labor Party’s frontbench is 54% female.

And just 5% of chief executive officers in companies listed on the ASX 100 are female.

Mullins says the lack of women in positions of power was only half the story. “It’s partially an explanation, but more indicative of the fact that it takes more effort to find contacts that you’ll actually want to speak to.”

Women were mostly quoted on stereotypically “female” issues, including parenting, childcare, relationships and women in the workforce. — Crikey intern Harrison Johnstone

Peter Fray

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