How White and Male Was the Media in 2014?


The media can seem like a boys club at times, particularly if you’re opening a newspaper’s sports section, tuning in to a Sunday talk show, or considering the directorial fate of an action franchise. But do the numbers support this assumption? Unfortunately, The Women’s Media Center’s annual Status of Women in the US Media report arrives each year to tell us that the numbers remain grim both for women and minorities. The comprehensive report combines all the available data on gender in media, including film, TV, print, and TV journalism and more, plus some of the WMC’s own fact-finding.

So here’s a quick scan of the recent media landscape (note that some data is from 2013 and some from 2014). Together, these data sets show that while there have been some improvements, the era of white male media dominance is far from over — despite what some aggrieved folks on the Internet would have us believe.

Newspaper editorial boards remain male dominated:

While editorial boards may be less important in the age of the opinionated web, they still matter quite a bit for politics and policy. Unfortunately: “Editorial boards of the ten largest newspapers in nine regions of the nation, on average, were comprised of seven men—usually white men — and four women, according to a three-person team of academics with expertise in communications, gender and journalism.”

Newsroom staffs are incredibly white:

With race a huge news story in 2015, one would hope that newsroom diversity would help coverage. The dial moved a bit, but not enough: “Minorities comprised 13.3 percent of all newsroom staff, up from 12.3 in 2013. The figure peaked at 13.7 in 2006.”

Topics of journalism coverage are skewed by gender:

Women were more likely to cover “soft” areas like lifestyle and education, whereas men dominated politics, business, and tech reporting. And men had more bylines at all the major newspapers save one.

Guests on evening news shows are primarily male, even on progressive shows:

This was the most surprising to me, as even conservatives like Sean Hannity and Bill O’Reilly have more female guests (still around a third) than their liberal counterparts. Bookers have work to do:

There were 730 male invitees — 72 percent of all guests — and 285 female invitees on all the shows, combined. With 36 percent of his guests being female, O’Reilly came closer to gender parity than other mainstream cable show hosts.

Sunday talk show guests are white and male and boring:

This is a particularly egregious category, with the vast majority of guests being white and the vast majority being male. Again, while younger media watchers might be less inclined to be concerned about this category, the Sunday shows have a lot of clout in DC power circles.

Overall, in 2014, 61 percent of expert guests were white men; 20 percent were white women; 14 percent were non-white men; and the remaining guests were non-white women. Overall, men accounted for 70 percent of all guests

TV and film decision makers are largely dudes, and white:

As Flavorwire’s Pilot Viruet demonstrated in her investigation of diversity in television, the overall landscape remains hostile to multicultural and female-driven content, despite some bright spots. This holds true both both in TV and film.

  • Film studio senior management was 92 percent white and 83 percent male.
  • Film studio unit heads were 96 percent white and 61 percent male.
  • Television network and studio heads were 96 percent white and 71 percent male.
  • Television senior management was 93 percent white and 73 percent male.
  • Television unit heads were 86 percent white and 55 percent male.

Speaking characters in film and TV are a little more diverse, but barely:

In the visual media we consume, the picture remains mostly white. In film, in 2013: “14.1 percent of speaking characters were black; 4.9 percent were Hispanic; 4.4 percent were Asian; 1.1 percent were Middle Eastern; less than 1 percent was American Indian or Alaskan Native; and 1.2 percent were some other ethnicity.”

In entertainment (i.e., non-news) TV, the results were minimally better:

  • By race, 74 percent of female characters were white, 14 percent were black, 6 percent were Asian, 5 percent were Latina and 1 percent were some other ethnicity.
  • Women actors had 42 percent of all speaking parts, a drop of 1 percent from 2012-13 but higher than 1997- 98’s 39 percent.
  • As women characters aged, they were less likely to be cast. Of all female characters, 32 percent were in their 30s and 17 percent were in their 40s. The respective figures for male characters were 33 percent and 25 percent.

New directors being tapped for TV are still mostly guys:

One of the most interesting figures in the report referred to the pipeline. It wasn’t just that white, male directors were already working, the numbers say — it’s that they are still dominating new hires:

For five years ending with the 2013-2014 television season, males comprised 82 percent of Hollywood workers who were tapped to direct their first episode of a TV series, according to a Directors Guild of America report. Among those 479 directors, 87 percent were white.

Sundance distribution is more indie for female, more mainstream for male directors:

In the indie world, the disparity is less pronounced but still there. For instance, the majority (70 percent) of female-directed Sundance debuts went on to get indie distribution, compared to 56 percent of male movies: “On the flip side, 43.1 percent of male-directed Sundance films and 29.8 percent of female-directed Sundance films were distributed by those more financially well off studios.”

The top 100 movies are totally dominated by male directors, writers, and producers:

Men comprised over 98 percent of directors for the top 100 movies in 2013. And it gets worse: “By a ratio of 5.3 to 1 — a rate roughly the same as 2012 — male film directors, writers and producers outnumbered women among the 1,374 persons in those three categories.”