The Age of Invisibility?

A recent study by the US Women's Media Center found that men were 'far more likely to be quoted than women in newspapers, television and public radio,' even including 'coverage…

By Tara Moss

Jul 25, 2013

Below, I present two fairly random examples of The Age newspaper online, snapped as screenshots. The first was taken by me on July 17 and the second today, July 25. At a glance, I count over 43 men, 1 baby boy, 2 illustrated boys (Both ads for the film ParaNorman) and 1 woman, partially visible behind a male. Oh, and a cockatoo of unknown gender:

I have no interest in targeting The Age, which I enjoy reading (hence the reason I found these front pages in the first place), and it is significant that these two examples were found on the only days I have visited their site recently, because I have been on holiday. It is entirely possible that on the other days there were 43 women visible on their front page, and only 1 partially visible man, standing behind a woman. My snapshots by no means constitute a rigorous analysis of gender in Australian media. However, Chrys Stevenson’s recent gender breakdown of Australian newspapers does. She found the following:

Stevenson’s findings accord with a number of international studies of mainstream media including a 2012 report by UK’s Women in Media, which concluded the following:

Even on issues specifically pertaining to women’s bodies, women’s voices and opinions continue to be outnumbered. A study by 4th Estate found that 81% of statements about abortion across media covering the 2012 US election were made by men. Likewise a recent study by the US Women’s Media Center also found that men were ‘far more likely to be quoted than women in newspapers, television and public radio,’ even including ‘coverage of abortion, birth control, Planned Parenthood and women’s rights.’ In addition, they found that ‘it will take until 2085 for women to reach parity with men in leader-ship roles in government/politics, business, entrepreneurship and nonprofits.’

Whatever you make of this lack of gender diversity in international mainstream media, or what impacts it might have on social, cultural and political life, one thing is certain – It’s unlikely that we really need to worry about bias against male journalists just yet. (Sorry Mr. Mangos.)

For those interested, Stevenson’s full piece in The King’s Tribune can be found here, and is well worth a read.

On a positive note, it is nice to know that every woman in the world is on holiday. (Apart from Commonwealth Minister for Finance and Deregulation and the Leader of the Government in the Senate, Penny Wong, partially visible behind our male PM in one image.)

Happy holidays, ladies.

* Related post: The Invisible Women


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  1. Nina

    Great piece Tara and some really interesting content analysis work from Chrys Stevenson. The screenshots of The Age are pretty horrifying. Actually I’ve just noticed that when Google the SMH, beneath the main link are sub-links for different sections of the paper. The links are (in order): Sport, Business, Breaking News, National, Obits, League HQ

    Wow. Not only does Sport come before Breaking News and National, but Fairfax promotes BOTH Sport AND League HQ on their front page (meanwhile… Daily Life get’s shafted off to the women’s corner). Hmmmm….

  2. Tara Moss

    Thank you, Nina. I enjoy The Age, and find that they often have diverse commentary, so I was surprised by these lead pages. The total invisibility of women (and also of note, the very low percentage of anyone who is not white – I counted only 5) may have been an anomaly, but the fact that it is easy in 2013 to have a front page with no women visible in News, Politics, Sport or in the ads for film, radio and TV, does possibly say something. I was impressed by Chrys Stevenson’s research. It is on par with comparable countries like the US and UK.

  3. Confident Woman Australia

    Great article thanks Tara, with excellent real examples. It isn’t just the media, it is also that we as women don’t think to put ourselves forward enough; many times we sit back and wait for the media to contact us instead of having the confidence or idea that we could be proactive. However having said that
    I would like to see the men’s and women’s sports teams called men’s and women’s by the media .. we have the Australian women’s cricket team, but somehow (!) the men’s team is The Australian team.

  4. Token Male

    Hi Tara,
    I am male and am knowingly walking into the coliseum and putting my head squarely in the tigress’ mouth just to write a comment here. But I want to “tell it like it is” too.

    I am tired of reading about the supposed gender bias in the media and our society in general. No male editor would have deliberately excluded women from those pages on the day. I would assume that there was simply nothing judged newsworthy done by a woman on the two days you chose. As awesome as women are, it can happen.

    Yes, it’s all very fashionable at the moment to attack men and point out the supposed inequities against females in Australian society. It’s the social science funding equivalent of climate change at the moment isn’t it? I mean, if you NEED grant money to support “serious research” into anything in the social sciences, just claim “Gender Inequality!”

    I honestly had to laugh-out-loud when I saw a story about how women are being paid less than men in Australia now. I thought to myself how can this be in 2013 ??? SURELY, it’s women and men doing the same job and getting different pay rates? NO NO NO ! It turns out that in “certain careers” women dominate and appear to be paid less than the “equivalent” traditional “male-dominated” roles. Hmmmpf. I thought that in 2013 about the only career a woman cannot pursue is fighting in a front-line infantry battalion, but hey even that may change. There is NOTHING stopping a woman pursuing a career in anything in Australia today other than her own SELF-IMPOSED limitations. Want parity with men? Not sure what is stopping any woman from gaining “parity” with a man in ANY field of employment. Perhaps other than a lack of talent, experience or qualifications.

    I am a writer. I recently read on the ABC website a diatribe about women being unfairly judged in several recent prominent writing competitions because there wasn’t 50:50 gender ratio in the results. Many female writers commented how “wrong it was” and how the judges should be “compelled” to have a 50:50 gender ratio in the result. I say that is wrong. Judge on TALENT & ABILITY not gender. Submit all entries under a randomised system that assigns numbers instead of names, and who cares what the results are !

  5. Tara Moss

    Dear ‘Token Male’,

    Thank you for your contribution. First of all, you should note that nearly half of the people who comment on this site are male, but if it feels more exciting to write that you are ‘walking into the coliseum and putting my head squarely in the tigress’ mouth just to write a comment here’ and “tell it like it is”, then go ahead and enjoy the danger.

    I will do my best to respond to your concerns below:

    ‘No male editor would have deliberately excluded women… I would assume that there was simply nothing judged newsworthy done by a woman’. You are absolutely correct. This is why it is called ‘unconscious gender bias’. It is generally not conscious at all. There has been a lot of research on this and I suggest you may want to look up the term.

    Regarding the gender pay gap, I am glad this is an area of interest for you. You wrote: ‘I thought to myself how can this be in 2013 ??? SURELY, it’s women and men doing the same job and getting different pay rates? NO NO NO ! It turns out that in “certain careers” women dominate and appear to be paid less than the “equivalent” traditional “male-dominated” roles. Hmmmpf.’

    The issue is a complex one and certainly not so easily dismissed. The Australian Human Rights Commission estimates that the average woman working full time in Australia earns at least 16 per cent less (16-18%) than the average man working full time, and the ‘gender pay gap is even greater when women’s part-time and casual earnings are considered, with women earning two thirds what men earn overall.’

    A 2012 study found that the 25-year old woman with a post-graduate degree would over the course of her working life take home less than a man with just a Year 12 credential, and according to research by NATSEM in 2009, ‘simply being a woman is the major contributing factor to the pay gap in Australia, accounting for 60 per cent of the difference between women’s and men’s earnings.’

    A 2012 report by Graduate Careers Australia shows median full-time employment starting salaries for male graduates are $55,000 (up from $52,000 in 2011), compared to $50,000 for women and in my piece Our Beautiful Meritocracy I cover a paper published recently in PNAS, examining the results of a randomised double-blind study where half of a group of scientists were given applications with a male name attached, and half were given the exact same application with a female name attached. ‘Results found that the “female” applicants were rated significantly lower than the “males” in competence, hireability, and whether the scientist would be willing to mentor the student.‘ The scientists also offered lower starting salaries to the female-named applicants. Apparently the scientists who judged the applications were both male and female, showing – the authors of the study claimed – that a bias against women exists in both genders.

    So yes, the issue is complex and should not be dismissed.

    I recommend the following links for more information:

    Best wishes,


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