Women’s voices marginalised in media reporting of coronavirus

The same is true of STEM. Only 5% of well-known STEM experts mentioned were women. This is despite the fact that women made up 17% of prominent STEM experts mentioned, and is driven by the most frequently named STEM experts – such as Anthony Fauci – receiving a very large share of the mentions.

Put another way, the experts receiving the most citations, who get mentioned time and time again, tend to be men.

And when we do see a more even distribution in quotations between men and women, it tends to be because the articles analysed include human interest stories about the impact of COVID-19 on everyday people, thus quoting women in a non-expert capacity.

While the media can’t directly address the underrepresentation of women in certain fields, Jones acknowledges, “they can play a role by keeping an eye on who they’re approaching, by not always going to the same people.”

“I think it’s also important that they keep an eye on who is in these key positions, keep pushing that issue and keep talking about why more equal representation across industries matters.” 

And does the research assume that women will always take a feminist stance; that more women equals better? Not necessarily, Jones says, but other studies do indicate as much. 

“Research shows that when women are in the room they tend to make decisions that benefit women more broadly. We recently did a big evidence review that looked at the impact of female politicians on policy affecting women, and they do tend to make more feminist policy.

“It’s not that there’s an inherent difference between men and women,” she adds. “It’s more about the different life experiences they’ve had. And it’s important to have that diversity of perspectives.”

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