Women in Media Work


Let's have a quick and dirty look at the representation of women among media professionals in the news, advertising, game, film and broadcasting industries.

- Journalism/News

In the latest (2002) report on the profile of American journalists, my friend and colleague at Indiana University's School for Journalism David Weaver concludes:
Women are still one-third of all full-time journalists working for the traditional mainstream media, as they have been since 1982, even though more women than ever are graduating from journalism school and entering the profession. Among journalists with fewer than five years of work experience, women are 54.2 percent, outnumbering men for the first time. Among all journalists, the largest proportion of women work for newsmagazines (43.5 percent) and the smallest for the major wire services (20.3 percent) and radio (21.9 percent). Women are 37.4 percent of television journalists, 36.9 percent of weekly newspaper journalists, and 33 percent of daily newspaper journalists.
In earlier work where he compiled surveys among journalists in more than 20 countries all over the world, Weaver found similar statistics: men outnumbering women in the news everywhere (by at least 2 to 1), especially in newspapers, news agencies, and radio. I found the same situation in my own (1999-2000) survey among Dutch journalists.

2. Advertising/Marketing Communications/Public Relations

It is difficult to get accurate figures on those employed in the global advertising industry (I include marketing and PR as most if not all agencies today have holdings, are part of networks or are otherwise interconnected in the way they work with media bureaus, PR firms, and marketing companies, and vice versa). However, one can get a pretty good idea of the numbers by reading the (2005) annual reports of some of the largest multinational holding firms in the world, such as the WPP Group and the Publicis Groupe. The following is taken from their 2005 reports (and is a straight quote from my forthcoming book, with apologies for the shameless plug):
In 2005 Publicis Groupe had 38,610 employees in 104 countries overall, and in advertising agencies such as Saatchi & Saatchi, Leo Burnett and Fallon Worldwide specifically 8,900 employees, distributed across 251 offices in 82 countries. At the same time the WPP Group employed 70,396 people in more than 100 countries, including its flagship agencies Grey Worldwide, JWT, Ogilvy & Mather, and Young & Rubicam. In 2005 these firms shared almost the exact same figures regarding their workers: overall, 54% of all employees are female, although women are still a minority in executive postions and management teams (30% at Publicis, 33% at WPP).
There seems to be no valid reason to assume that these overall averages are that much different across the other agencies and companies in this field, large or small.

3. Film and Television

In the film industry, annual surveys by Martha Lauzen (San Diego State University) show that in the U.S.:
In 2005, women comprised 17% of all directors, executive producers, producers, writers, cinematographers, and editors working on the top 250 domestic grossing films. This is the same percentage of women employed in these roles in 1998.
She also did work on the television sector of the industry (and both sectors are deeply interconnected through cross-ownership and production networks):
Women comprised 25% of all creators, executive producers, producers, directors, writers, editors, and directors of photography working on situation comedies, dramas, and unscripted programs airing on the broadcast networks during the 2004-05 season. This percentage represents an increase of two percentage points over last season and a recent historical high. Programs airing on UPN employed a significantly higher percentage of behind-the-scenes women (38%) than any other network.
In similar studies among the workforce in the audiovisual industries in the U.K. by Skillset, the conclusion in 2005 was (in a situation where 62% of film and television professionals is male):
Those working in the audio visual industries are relatively young compared with the wider UK workforce. Nearly half are under 35 and only 15% aged over 50, whereas 36% of the wider UK workforce are under 35 and 26% are fifty-plus. Furthermore, there are proportionally more older men than older women in the audio visual industries, compared to the wider UK workforce - but proportionally more younger women than younger men. Forty-five percent of female audio visual workers are aged 25-34, compared to 37% of men in this age group, while 18% of men are aged 50 or over - compared with only 10% of women.


4. Computer and Video Games

In the game industry, the IGDA (International Game Developers Association) keeps excellent records of the workers' profile. In an October 2005 report called "Game Developer Demographics: An Exploration of Workforce Diversity", which was based on a survey among more than 6,000 game developers worldwide, the organization could draw the following conclusion:
Male = 88.5%, Female = 11.5%


So... if I am allowed for a posting moment to grossly simplify all of these (selected and to some extent non-representative, but supported by other sources) results, on average the worldwide estimated percentages of female media workers at the turn of the 20th century are, in ranking order:

1. Advertising - 54%
2. News - 33%
3. Film/TV - 25%
4. Games - 12%


... and yes of course, the percentage of women goes up (slowly) when you look at newcomers and younger professionals, and the numbers for female employees go down (fast) the closer you get to upper-level managerial and directoral positions.

PS: Let me, in this content, quote myself (sorry, but seems equally relevant here) from an earlier post on the characteristics and gendering of media work:
[M]ediawork (and especially freelance, temporary and otherwise contingent mediawork), is not a open, free-for-all and egalitarian (some say: heterarchic) praxis - it excludes, limits, curtails and effectively privileges certain people, certain values, and a certain way of doing things. I wonder what we're missing in media content (whether its games, movies, or newspapers) because of this.