On International Women’s Day, Which-50 takes stock of how its own coverage stacks up.
News organisations are increasing the amount of women they write about, not because it’s the right thing to do but because it delivers a better product for readers. It also expands their audience, making them more economically viable.
The ABC is building a database of female talent, The New York Times is revisiting the women throughout history who were ignored by the obituary section and the Financial Times has a bot which keeps track of how many are (or aren’t) quoted in its articles.
For our part, Which-50 actively discriminated against men by removing them from articles or downgrading them to spokespeople for the entire month of July. We wrote about the experience here.
Why? Because change isn’t happening fast enough, and that is reflected in and reinforced by our own coverage.
Apart from the bit about excluding half the population from our stories, we very deliberately changed nothing else about our coverage.
And at the end of July we still couldn’t balance the ledger — we’d spoken to 45 women and 70 nameless, faceless men.
That was an improvement on the month before, in June 2018 Which-50’s editorial coverage mentioned 111 men and 24 women.
The experiment revealed a major weakness on our part, we don’t have a big enough contact book of female executives.
Going forward we committed to doing better, setting ourselves a target of quoting 45 women and building that up to 60 or 70 women by the end of the year.
The results so far have been patchy, before dropping off around December and January. This year we’ve now settled on a target of 50 women a month.
So how have we going in 2019? Better… but not great.
Still too frequently a week goes by, like this one, where we speak to 25 men and four women.
Our key metric — the number of men and women named or quoted in each article — is a simple one, but one that has forced us to change our behaviours and how we select and research stories.
What doesn’t work? Trying to reverse engineer a story just so you can quote a handful of women and boost your numbers.
Sending out a team email at the end of each month reporting on the number of men and women quoted on the site is also pretty ineffectual.
What actually works? Bringing it up every day and working on it over time.
Making a sustained difference meant moving this from a top 10 priority, to somewhere inside the top three. Otherwise it’s too easy to slip back into business as usual.