Look who’s talking 2: Canadian edition

Your Working Girl’s Friday blog detailed how women are underrepresented in media sourcing in the US, specifically in the debate around contraception and abortion – 87% of the quotes in print media election stories were attributed to men and 84% on the television news were men.

Her Gentle Readers, of whom she is extremely fond, sent Your Working notes expressing shock and outrage: “Wow!” “Unbelievable.” “Unacceptable!” “I didn’t realize it was so bad.”

They also expressed a curiosity about the situation in Canada.  Things always seem worse in the U.S. with their crazy-daisy politics.  Surely things are better here?  Your Working Girl rummaged around over the weekend and found a study done last November by TVO producer, Mary Taws.  Ms Taws found that:

  • 80% of columns and guest commentaries in Canada’s largest daily newspapers are men
  • 70% of experts on national talk shows such as CBC’s The Current are men
  • The ratio of male to female opinion in Canada’s larges dailies is 5 – 1
  • Men were the authors of 90% of hard news commentary (hard news being defined as international and national affairs, economics and politics)

And according to a sample from informedopinions.org (formerly MediaWatch), the land the op-ed doesn’t fare much better:  31% are written by academics.  No surprise there.  But only 14% (16) of the 113 articles reviewed were by women.

Hmmm…. Not too good.

But Ms Taws added another element to the picture.  As a producer who books the experts who come on TVO programs, she finds women often turn her down saying “perhaps I’m not the right person for this.” Men do not say this.  They say, “I’ll read up on it and would be happy to join you.”

Women sometimes take themselves out of the running.   Sheryl Sandberg’s much-maligned book, Lean In, goes on at length about it.  This doesn’t let rampant and systemic sexism off the hook.  Most certainly not.   But if you are a woman in an organization that has something important to say, don’t leave it to someone else to say it.  Think about doing some media training, even if you have to pay for it yourself.  Then you’ll know when your issue makes the news, you are absolutely the right person to comment on it.

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