Two men, one woman. Four women, three men.
For almost three years, a dedicated group of Voice of America journalists has been keeping a tally of the gender of the contributors they chose to feature in their content. In all, they have tracked more than 25 thousand appearances.
Voice of America is one of 145 organizations in 30 countries that participate in the 50:50 Project collecting data about gender representation in the media. The 50:50 Impact Report 2022, published on April 26, highlights how the project is increasing women’s visibility to worldwide audiences.
“The numbers speak for themselves,” says Acting VOA Director Yolanda López. “It’s no secret that men are often more visible than women. But we have a methodology to correct this. And not only are we seeing results, but more and more VOA broadcast teams are signing up. That’s the exciting part.”
VOA’s Spanish-language TV program, “Foro,” is one of those newcomers. When it began tracking gender representation in November 2021, it found that it was giving 80% of its discretionary appearances to men. Just two months later, that number had fallen to under 65%, and the imbalance continues to shrink.
“We always see strong numbers in March,” says VOA 50:50 Project Coordinator Gary Butterworth. “During Women’s History Month, we ask teams to recommit themselves to seeking out strong, qualified female voices. Those voices are out there. Once we find them, it’s easier to maintain that momentum moving forward.”
In March 2022, 38% of VOA’s active 50:50 Project teams skewed male. This is VOA’s second-lowest percentage of male-skewing shows since it began tracking in June 2019. Cumulatively, VOA recorded 49% women and 51% men for the month. More than seventy 50:50 Project partner organizations have released their own March data. Overall, 47% of organizations featured at least 50% women in their content in March, up from 31% doing so in their first month of monitoring.
“Diversity and inclusion might seem like buzzwords,” says Butterworth, “but really, it’s part and parcel of good journalism. So, it’s encouraging to see this catching on around the world.”
López agrees. “A free press needs to reflect its society, the whole society. We cannot tell the full story if we don’t include the perspectives of all members of society.”
The 50:50 Project originated at the BBC’s London newsroom and is a global initiative designed to counterbalance the under-representation of women's voices in the public sphere.