The not-obvious low presence of women in TV programs

by perrinebrds on March 9, 2015 - 1:11pm

If at first glance, women are very present on television, they are more often anchors, and are thus selected for their physical and their fluency.n 2014 the French Superior Audio-visual Council (CSA) which is the authority of the self-regulation of the French broadcasting, brought out studies that show inequalities existing between both sex in their representation in TV programs. They analysed (except publicity’s spot programs) of 17 different channels, which represent an amount of 1200 hours of programs and the authority has reached to the conclusion that women are significantly underrepresented on television program: 64% of them being men and 36% women. This general number shows an obvious imbalance.

Looking more deeply, other studies showed that the place of women in the French audio-visual landscape depends also on the form of the emissions. Indeed we must differentiate presentation and content : when it comes to provide content, expert advices, and experienced witness, women are much less requested than men. Women in the media "are more anonymous, less expert, suffer more than men ». Today, only 18% of the experts invited on TV stages are women. Moreover, when they are invited to intervene on TV programs on a subject that they master, we note that women have more difficulties to « keep the microphone » than men. The study also notes that on the 15 daily talk-shows studied at prime time, women account for only one third of the speaking time identified. This discrimination also deals with the topic. Indeed studies have proved that topics approaching politics are much more presented by men than women.

But when focusing on the content as for news program women are only present in an average of 17% and especially the biggest is the channel, worst is the gab between men and women : when a “normal” channel has a percentage of 52% of men and 47% of women, a big one suits better a gap of 67% of men and 32% of women. (INA/study CSA) It seems still to exist a relationship between the idea of the value or the societal statue of a channel or topic, as if more the impact was going to be important more the men were asked to represent it. And this can send back to the basic idea that influencing sphere should be represented by men.

The report highlights the continuing large gap between women's lives today and their place and image in the media, as well as the persistence of stereotypes. 43% of the journalists are women, a proportion that is expected to grow as 60% of students in journalism are girls! Facing this sad assessment, most editorial board of the largest french TV channels have set up an « Expert Files » in order to provide journalists women experts contacts to invite them to come intervening on TV shows.f that affirmative action has already beared fruits, it still remains to be qualified. It is similar to the system of quotas and it would suggest that women are invited in talk shows not because they are experts but because they are women.

At CSA, the working group on diversity has implemented various instruments (barometer, charter, management diversity ...) and has enacted a standard, the "Diversity Label" which commits the company to better represent the french society, including women, within the board of directors and on-air. But all of the french TV channel still don’t fulfill all the conditions yet to get it.


I personally never realized that men were more present in the media than women. After a short research, I found several organizations defending women rights specifically in the media. The Alliance for Women in Media (AWM) works to promote the development of women in the domain and to also improve the quality of the media. As you mention in your post, women are not very present and it is harder for them to be heard. This organization thinks this inequality between men and women should be eradicated. They have several events such as a conference in Los Angeles in April and donations are always welcome.

I think the content of CSA's study is really upsetting and yet I'm glad that you made me read about it. Since we live in a patriarchy I'm not that surprised about the results show, but I’m surprised of how observable and direct the gender differences are pointed out. To me it’s a shame that women, even though they in some degree are there, don’t get more then a third of the vocal space in the TV-shows which the study refers to. But even worse is the fact that the role as an expert is so dominated by men. I mean, 82% is a huge majority! When I read your article I was starting to think about what the consequences of this inequality might be and how they influence society as a whole? And what can be done on different institutional levels to counteract these consequences? Obviously some organizations are looking in to this with the intent of making the gender differences disappear on TV, and they’ve developed some methods in order to do so. But what do you think, what can be done to get rid of this inequality and in the process of fighting its consequences?

Hey, thank you for your article, it was very interesting to read. You are right, the difference between the representation of men and of women really does not appear as large as it is when you just watch TV. It shows again how the idea of a male expert seems very normal and is still socially engrained in our perception.
You also talked about speaking time which is interesting because as it reflects daily life very well. In the media, male experts or speakers take more time talking than the females. I recently heard that in a conversation with mixed sexes men also rise to speak more often and speak longer than women.
As Sebastian said, this underrepresentation in the media has consequences for the whole society. The reasons are also cultural and social reasons that apply to the whole society, putting more value on the word of men comes from the long history of division between the man working in the public, professional sphere and the women staying in the private sphere.