At Campaign, we’ve unabashedly written a lot about gender equality in our industry. It’s an issue we’re proud to take the lead on. We’ve written dozens of articles on unconscious bias, the pay gap, sexual harassment, women’s mentoring and the persistent gender imbalance of leadership and creative director roles. More than that, we’ve pushed for greater recognition of women in the industry through our annual (and recently-released) Women to Watch list and Women Leading Change Awards, preceded by conferences and practical workshops, and we publish original annual research on gender imbalances.
But while we’ve encouraged change in these areas, the uncomfortable truth is we’ve continued to present a male-dominated view of our industry. The vast majority of voices you hear in Campaign Asia are male voices, largely because men form the majority of industry leadership and spokespeople whom we hear from most often. But also because we haven’t made as much effort as we could to actively seek out female spokespeople.
An oft-cited global media monitoring project found that only 24% of people heard, seen or read about in print and broadcast news are women and only 19% of expert sources are women. At Women Leading Change last April, we heard about initiatives from major news organisations to track gender imbalances in their coverage and do something about it. Bloomberg set up a database to monitor the gender of its sources and to encourage sharing of female sources in male-dominated business sectors like finance. BBC World News went a step further; setting a goal of 50% women on-air contributors by 2020 and ended up reaching its goal early last April. Nearly 20 other media partners have now signed on to what has become known as the 50:50 project.
While the ensuing debate on whether hard gender quotas are a good thing for journalistic objectivity or a slippery slope leading to all kinds of other quotas is worth considering, the all-too-easy option is to opt out and do nothing. So at Campaign Asia Pacific we pledged to monitor how we were doing and to monitor our progress and that’s what we’ve done.
It was a bigger task than we imagined. Over the summer, we painstakingly combed through all our articles over the past year and tracked how many men and women we heard from as sources or op-ed contributors, or wrote about as subjects worthy of industry attention.
We found that from July 2018 to June 2019 we referenced 1224 women and 2576 men. In other words, 68% of our discussions involved men and 32% involved women. Last May, in the lead-up to Women Leading Change and with our premium content focusing on diversity, we had our narrowest gender imbalance, with 43% of our content referencing women and 57% men. But there were times like last November when men dominated 77% of our discussions.
We can’t force more women into key roles that we write about, but we can be mindful of gender balance when looking for sources of commentary. So we’re going to monitor this and report back to you on how we’re doing. It’s our hope that by ensuring we’re giving more women a chance to speak up we’ll give you coverage that’s more representative of the entire industry as a whole.