AS IT HAPPENED: Women on air in the United Kingdom

Lis Howell, director of broadcasting at City University London, speaks about women on air in the United Kingdom, from research to campaigning towards diversity inclusiveness in journalism training.



17:40: Howell says her research has made her so angry “there had been times where I’ve wanted to throw my porridge at the radio in the morning”. At the five flagship news programmes in the UK, male experts outnumber women four to one.

 17:44: Howell says most men on the news are experts and most women aren’t. Even if you have many women on the news, they are the ones “crying”. Men also speak first, and they speak longer. In politics, for every 10 male experts there is only one woman.

17:47: 82 per cent of journalists Howell surveyed said they try to get more women on air. The respondents were entry level journalists, people educated by Howell and new in the business. If this many people are actively trying, why are they failing? Some of the answers were “the usual suspects – men in suits” and “you can’t work with what you haven’t got”.

17:49: Journalists say they can’t help it, and Howell found out that they cannot choose the experts in 53 per cent of stories, and the experts are more likely to be men. Buy they can choose the stories.

17:50: There’s an idea that a woman that puts herself forward is someone acting outside the norm. Howell came up with an analysis called “Pushy or Princess”, and references an article called “The Dilemma of the Informed Woman” (2004) that found that women had a lower rating on leadership and likability because they had the answer to the problem in the particular scenario.


17:58: Question from the audience on whether Howell adopted any strategy to publicise and discuss this research with media owners. Howell says she started doing this because she was annoyed, and the research was published in the trade magazine “Broadcast” with a circulation of around a million in the UK. “Broadcast” published a page every month, and a conference at City University London in April brought together journalists and editors to discuss the issues.

18:00: Is there any research to legitimise the idea of his & hers news:”women in the morning, lads in the evening”? Howell says there are more women watching every news programme except Sky News at 10 o’clock, where the percentage falls just under 50 per cent. What does happen is that men have a disproportionate effect when they enter the audience, and the programmes that attract men are viewed as flagship programmes.

18:04: Howell says if men are on the side of this, it’s going to make all the difference. It makes for better programming, and it helps break other barriers such as the class barrier and the ethnicity barrier. The problem is not the lack of women, but the dominance of middle class men.

18:08: The press are looking for women, but press officers will often put up the man because they’re confident in that person and it will please the board. “PR is the dark side, they’ve got a lot to answer for”, says Howell.


18:10: Howell concludes the session by saying she genuinely believes we can change it if we all do it, and tell our students that’s what we have to do.



About Catalina Albeanu

Romanian expat and coffee lover. Around @cityjournalism most of the time. Tech is cool. Things I wrote:

Posted on June 11, 2014, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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