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Changing the Faces of Media

Quick—name the director of your favorite film. The columnist of the newspaper article you just read. The analyst on the news program you watch.

While many of us are aware of the handful of big name women in media, when reality sets in it becomes clear that these answers were most likely men. The existence of a gender gap in all areas of the media, from newspaper to film to television, is not a new realization. What is surprising, however, is that only slight improvements in the amount of women in the industry have been made in the last decade, according to the newest report from the Women’s Media Center titled “Status of Women in the U.S. Media 2014.”

Let’s start with journalism. But wait, you say. What about Oprah, Diane Sawyer, and Barbara Walters—there is an abundance of female journalists! While many females have risen to prominence in journalism, the fact is that female representation in television newsrooms has declined from 79 to 78.6 percent and female representation in print newsrooms has declined from 36.9 to 36.3 percent in the past decade. Furthermore, in the news stories reported and written, the majority of the quotes and bylines were men’s.

For those behind the bigger screen, it’s the same story. In 2012, of the 1,228 directors, writers and producers of films, only 16.7 percent were female.
The highest paid female movie star, actress Angelina Jolie made roughly the same amount as the two lowest paid male stars in Hollywood. Additionally, of female actresses who had screen time in 2012, only 28.4 percent had speaking roles.

While all of these facts point to a systemic problem that underlies many other problems with the representation of women in the media, the first step is recognizing that the gender disparity exists, not only in the media, but perpetrated by the media (be sure to watch the film Miss Representation for a stunningly crafted look into this). The next step is to realize that there are women who are working to change the status quo.

Arianna Huffington is one such woman. Huffington, the chair, president and editor-in-chief of The Huffington Post, has encouraged women to become involved in the media and in business ventures, as she did in founding The Huffington Post. Huffington is putting her words into practice, as well as at The Huffington Post has more female bylines than any other comparable online news site (CNN, The Daily Beast or Fox News).

There are miles and miles of ground to cover before we might be able to name more females in media than males. As Women’s Media Center President Julie Burton states, “The numbers tell a clear story for the need for change on every media platform.” While change may be difficult, the amount of females in media studies programs, such as the Communications and Media Studies minor here at Tufts, gives hope for future progress.

— Lauren Witte

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The Communications & Media Studies Program of Tufts University

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