Women in Newspapers – the What Glass Ceiling Investigation

Female Career

What Glass Ceiling considers where in British newspapers female journalists are most likely to feature, with an in-depth look at business and sports sections.

We analysed issues of two broadsheet newspapers  (The Guardian and The Telegraph), two smaller dailies (the Evening Standard and i) and two tabloids (The Daily Mirror and The Sun) with some telling results!

Articles By Female Journalists

In general, female representation of women in the broadsheets and daily papers hovered around the 25% mark, with the Evening Standard featuring the most female journalists although even here they constituted only 29%. In the tabloids, however, women accounted for just half of that figure. Only 14% of the Sun’s articles were written by female journalists, with the Mirror coming in last place with women producing just 13% of their output.

Breakdown: General News Stories

For the number of women writing general news stories, i and the Guardian came out on top, with a third of home and international news stories produced by female journalists. 30% of the Telegraphs copy was filed by women, whilst the Evening Standard lagged further behind with 24%. The tabloids featured significantly fewer pieces by women, who produced only 16% of content in both papers. In fact, the reader had to wait until p23 to find any trace of a female journalist in the Sun!

Content-wise, education and health were both topics the broadsheets seemed more likely to give to women to cover. The Cannes film festival was reported on by women in both papers, with the Guardian also featuring articles written by women on equality and, ironically, Liberian beauty contests. The Telegraph featured women writing on typically girl-related topics including fashion, IKEA products and birth. Encouragingly, however, women also contributed more hard-hitting pieces to both newspapers on breaking stories, including the ongoing Brevik trial (Guardian) and continued unrest in Egypt (Guardian).

Neither i nor the Evening Standard had women writing on politics or particularly serious current affairs stories. Articles penned by women in the Standard centred on health, the Arts, clubbing and student life. Women writing for i tended to write about similarly soft topics, such as horticulture or design. Where they did cover more gritty stories, the topics covered tended to fall into the social affairs category, such as health and abortion.

The tabloids proved even more restrictive in the stories their female journalists could cover. Articles in the Sun produced by women centred around family tragedies, advice giving and a personal column about shopping in Ikea. The Mirror proved similarly restrictive, with women tending to write about showbiz, Jubilee celebrations, television shows and, again, stories concerning mothers.

Breakdown: Business Section

The Guardian boasted a convincing majority of articles produced by women in its business section 5 out of 8 pieces featured were written by women, who took up the entire first page. Meanwhile, 39% of the Telegraph’s business articles were produced by female journalists. Precisely a third of the section was written by women in i, whilst the Evening Standard registered a disappointing 15% female-produced content.

The tabloids featured a business page written by just one journalist. Whilst the Sun’s business guru is male, all the business-related content for the Mirror that day was produced by a woman. It’s worth noting that the Mirrors Consumer Editor, Ruki Sayid, is female.

Breakdown: Sports section

Finally, to the traditionally male-dominated sports section but has time finally changed the back pages? Sadly not. The Telegraph did not feature a single article written by a woman in its 21 sports pieces, nor did the Evening Standard in its 9 sports articles. The Guardian didn’t fare much better, with only one article by a woman journalist featuring in the section, constituting just 6%. i also included just one sports piece by a female writer, making up 7% of the whole section.

It was a similar story in the tabloids. Out of 19 pieces in the Daily Mirror, not one was written by a woman. The Sun did feature one article within the section (making up 4%), but it was one of the shortest pieces at just 116 words).

Final Thoughts: Women in the British Press

So what do these statistics tell us? Across the board, women remain underrepresented in Britain’s most popular newspaper, failing to account for even a third of the articles we read in popular broadsheets and daily papers. Female representation in the tabloids was even more disappointing, with neither of our featured papers breaking the 15% mark.

In terms of subject matter, there seemed a tendency with the broadsheets and dailies to give women softer topics such as health or abortion to write about, although both the Guardian and the Telegraph did feature political pieces written by women.

As for the business section, the results were surprisingly positive. Women produced the whole business section in the Mirror and the majority of the Guardians business pieces, although their small presence in the Evening Standard and non-existence in the Sun was disappointing.

Sport, it seems, remains the impenetrable fortress of the British press for women. Women were completely absent in half of the papers we surveyed, whilst the other half featured just one article in their sports section written by a woman.

Clearly, the British press still has a long way to go before it can put its male-dominated Fleet Street past behind it.