So what does the future hold?

The latest figures at the time of writing this – for 2017/18 show a ratio of 2.3-1. The latest figures will be found on the site. 

So is it job done? Well, the target of 3:1 originally suggested in 2012, when our original, informal student surveys showed ratios of 6-1 and worse, has been exceeded. And the number of women experts on the flagship news programmes is now much more in line with the level of female expertise in society. But it still lags behind. There are more women experts in academia, and the professions than there were in 2013, when we came up with the figure of 2.5-1. 

And it’s not a consistent trajectory. The 2018 figures showed that one programme, BBC News at Ten, had actually become worse between 2017 and 2018 – it’s ratio had changed from 2.7-1 to 3.1-1. All other programmes had  improved except “Today” which had stayed almost the same. 

Experts and topics – Sample of male/female ratios in 38 ITV News at Ten bulletins:

Politics10 to 1
Sport6 to 1
Foreign News5 to 1
Home News5 to 1
Entertainment4 to 1
Health2 to 1

What the Women Experts say:

  • 74% feel a lack of confidence
  • 45% feel worried about feedback
  • 10% fear being seen as ‘pushy’
  • 39% worry about appearance

Interestingly, editors all said it was hard to get women to speak about Brexit suggesting that some figures garnered from ITV News in 2013 were true –  which showed that the genre where women were most under-represented, was not sport but domestic politics.  

Surveys of women who had been on the BBC Expert Women days showed that they still showed lack of confidence. Surveys of journalist “guest bookers” showed that half of them believed women were harder to book than men.

In terms of research, we need to know more about why women fight shy of some topics, why women experts still fear being seen as “pushy”, and why journalists still seem to prefer men, especially in times of crisis (see Lis Howell’s analysis of the coverage of the Bataclan incident, Paris, November 2015, Inaugural Lecture)

The Expert Women Project will no longer count the women experts on six flagship programmes each month. But it WILL count them for two months each year, and release these figures when they are available.

And there are other issues too – figures show that there are more than twice the number of male reporters than female reporters on the flagship programmes. Figures also indicate that men get to speak for longer. We are not there yet…

In the coming months, the EWP wants to build up a group of women experts and of female and male journalists, who will share their experiences. We will be contacting you If you have been in contact with us in the past. And if you are reading this and would like to be part of the study, email l.howell@city.ac.uk, with the email title ‘EWP Group’.

Lis Howell, January 2020