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the media coverage bias, an enquiry & the RSquare project

Updated: May 4, 2020

Reporting across the globe is dominated by men and male sources.

To borrow Julie Burton's words, Inequality defines our media.

Less than a fourth of all people covered in the news (this can include people who are quoted, people who are the subject of the news are women. Just about 24 percent.

Quoting women experts - that figure veers around just about 19 percent

Media is where one witnesses gender stereotypes on a regular basis. For instance one finds a disproportionately high portrayal of women with reference to their age, marital status and appearance while making reference to professional achievements, skills when portraying men.

Journalistic sourcing, attention and selection independently and/or in combination with practices within the firm and on the news desks influence coverage.

Some say - its a deadline problem - As media outlets compete with each other, reporters are pushed to feature opinions from experts within a short time frame. Who do they go to - the one's that are the fastest & easiest to reach, the most visible ones - the majority of whom are men.

And whether it’s politics or investments, science or agribusiness, robotics or artificial intelligence, public health or social impact, a wide gender gap means all of these fields have a dominant male presence and it's fast & easy to reach important men.

Some say it’s a pipeline problem, a glass ceiling that reflects in the paper ceiling - Less than one-fifth of computer science graduates in the US are women. Myrna labs' top tier gender balance scorecards of several leading companies including India’s top 50 companies by market cap shows that not only do all of them have a male CEO, half of the companies do not have a single woman in their extended leadership team. And when it comes to heads of government, there are only 12 women out of the 193 countries covered. Only 2 percent of Indian CEOs are women and only 1 percent of its CFOs are women

In the presence of a wide gender data gap and absence of longitudinal data, correlating media coverage bias to gender based inequality is challenging. Though one off reports have surfaced, a systematic enquiry into the issue especially in the Indian ecosystem has not emerged. Led by myrna labs, the RSquare project attempts to

generate insights through systematised gender media monitoring
build a publicly available directory of women experts on a range of sectors add or nominate an expert
track gender balance within media firms and their ecosystem
publish periodic reports on the incidence, extent and impact of gender gap and gender bias in media coverage

The RSquare project expects to support & strengthen efforts of journalists, media firms to independently and in collaboration with other actors close the gender gap on media coverage, successfully challenge gender stereotypes and gender bias. The project will also share actionable insights with womens rights organisation in an effort to facillitate their actions.

For the course of The RSquare project we will restrict the reference of media to news and opinion published across newspapers (and their online avatars), radio & television broadcasting.


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