A Snapshot of the Women’s Media Center Annual Report

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The comprehensive annual report from the Women’s Media Center revealed what I already expected to be true: media’s representation of women is seriously lacking, and in many cases, actually worsening. Here’s a handful of stats:

  • “The percentage of episodes directed by minority females slid from 4 percent to 2 percent. (That was the most glaring year-to-year change, driven largely by the cancellation of a single show, Tyler Perry’s House of Payne.)” This is just dismal.
  • “Fifty-two shows for which minorities made up 10 percent or less of the casts got the lowest Nielsen rating, 0.39 points.” Execs: people will actually watch your shows in greater numbers if they contain diverse casts. In addition to representational issues, shows are simply more likely to be of good quality if they are not grossly whitewashed. I’m tired and bored of watching this many white people on TV and in films, and I am not alone in this.
  • “Black women respondents said “Young Phenoms,” “Girls Next Door,” “Modern Matriarchs,” and “Individualists” were the black women they knew most in real life.” How about more representations of these kinds of women, rather than more of the “Angry Black Woman” trope?
  • “89 percent of tech start-ups are launched by all-male teams.” Again, dismal.
  • “The number of first-year undergraduate women interested in majoring in computer science dropped 64 percentage points from 2000 to 2011.” Loss of interest in growing fields is a real problem. As the daughter of two computer and telecommunication engineers, I grew up listening to my mom tell me about her college engineering courses, where she was one of only a few women in her entire department. But just when I get discouraged by the reality that this disparity in the tech world has barely changed, I think about Girls Who Code and Black Girls Code. Check ’em out, and tell every young woman you know the truth: coding is power.
  • “By 2020, the United States is projected to have 1.4 million computer-based job openings.” See my previous point.
  • “Leadership ranks in television news were 21.6 percent female. Leadership ranks in newspapers were 19.2 percent female. Leadership ranks in radio news were 7.5 percent female.” I’m wishing I were shocked. Glass ceilings still exist.

That’s just the result of a perusal, and I feel steeped by those percentages.

And one more thing to keep in mind: poor representation is a systematic problem that will require conscious action to be improved. These disparities will not simply even out on their own. So here’s to the individuals who will use whatever power and platforms they have to make next year’s report a lot more hopeful.

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