What Will It Take is proud to announce the launch of its Women & Media Initiative, which strives to raise awareness about the lack of women in media and to find ways to increase women’s representation throughout the industry.
To help kick off this initiative (and as part of our Year of Women campaign), we held a What Will It Take to Make Media that Advances Gender Equality? event on August 23 in Beverly Hills. The launch event, at which a variety of media makers gathered, featured a panel conversation moderated by WWIT founder Marianne Schnall with Jennifer Siebel Newsom (Filmmaker; Founder & CEO, The Representation Project), Brenda Robinson (Women at Sundance Leadership Council; USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative) and Caroline Heldman (Political Science professor at Occidental College; Research Director of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media).
This timely event was in partnership with Second Lady of California Jennifer Siebel Newsom and her organization The Representation Project and addressed the influence media has on culture, the need for more women leaders and diversity in the media industry, and how media can drive gender equality. Special thanks to Shelley Zalis and The Female Quotient for hosting us and their support of the event.
Watch the highlights from the event
Watch the panel discussion
To view more pictures from the event, visit our photo gallery.
Whether it’s in the newsroom, Hollywood, in front of the camera or behind it, women are not equally represented in media:
- The media industry is just one-third women, a number that only decreases for women of color.
- In the broadcast news sector alone, work by women anchors, field reporters and correspondents is only 25.2 percent.
- In 2017, women penned 37 percent of bylined news articles and opinion pieces about reproductive issues in the nation’s 12 most widely circulated newspapers and news wires.
- Women accounted for just 17 percent of all the directors, executive producers, producers, writers, cinematographers, and editors who worked on the top-grossing 250 domestic films of 2016.
- When there are more women behind the camera or at the editor’s desk, the representation of women onscreen is better: Films written or directed by women consistently feature a higher percentage of female characters with speaking roles.
- Women have never accounted for more than 33 percent of speaking roles in the top 100 films in any given year for the past decade.
- Only 4.3 percent of directors on 1,100 top films in the past decade were women.
Influential women speak out on why we need more women in media:
“My hopes are that we will manage to amplify women’s voices in the media and expose women’s stories, because women tell stories and choose their stories differently. Every issue in the world affects women differently—usually worse—and if women’s voices are not part of the narrative, the effect on women is profound in terms of feeling ‘less than,’ but also men lose out on getting the whole story.”
Actress, Activist, Cofounder of Women’s Media Center
“It’s important we have women’s voices in journalism as we cover the news because we should reflect the country we’re covering. Women are more than half the population; they’re more than half the electorate in the United States, and we can’t cover what’s happening in this country—whether it has to do with the economy, education, health care, and business—unless we bring in women’s voices. We need to be making a point every day to bring women into that conversation. And if we’re not, then we’re not fairly reflecting what the country looks like.”
Anchor and Managing Editor of the PBS NewsHour
“There is no doubt that there are moments on Sunday morning when I look up and the whole newsroom has all of the different TV channels on, and almost all of the shows have three or four white guys of advanced age all sitting around talking about politics. I think that matters. No matter what the ideological perspective or the partisan viewpoint, it matters demographically. You have to have the descriptive representation of bodies in order to show that everybody is a citizen, that everybody gets a say.”
Professor, Author, Editor-at-Large for elle.com, Former TV Host
“The news is where we get our information, and if we are getting our information from only white men—when the vast majority of people on the planet are neither white nor male—there’s a problem here. You don’t have democracy. And if you don’t have democracy in the media, you don’t have the democracy in the state. It’s just that simple.”
Author, Activist, Cofounder of Women’s Media Center
“There’s an enormous space out there for the voices of women who you absolutely never hear from in news or media because nobody goes to them for comments.”
Writer, Editor, President & CEO of Tina Brown Live Media
“I would like to see more women in executive positions in the media. It still really is an old boy’s club. It’s changing, and there are increasingly more women in executive levels, but we definitely need to see more. The more women and the more minorities we have at the executive levels, the more sensitive we’ll be for women and for minorities.”
Executive Producer and Host of THIS IS LIFE on CNN
“If you look at every sector in society from the increasing amount of violence against women, to the fact that women are still the face of poverty, to the fact that we have a huge gender gap in leadership—all of those trends, for worse or even for better, they can all be traced to the paradigms that we are seeing about power, about leadership, about the role of women, about the place of women in culture. That all comes from media.”
Media Executive, Producer, Curator of TEDWomen
“It’s taking too long to recognize how critical it is that the media celebrate the diversity of women.”
—Jennifer Siebel Newsom—
Filmmaker, Actress, Founder/CEO of The Representation Project
“It’s hard for young women to look at the way other women are objectified in the media, how they’re Photoshopped to perfection, and not feel that we have to live up to this perfectionist standard. This is a phenomenon that just doesn’t occur for our male counterparts. And I think once we realize that there’s a perfect image we’re not living up to, we begin to question ourselves in all aspects of our lives.”
Founding Editor of The FBomb
“If the media shows women in a degrading, demeaning way, if violence is not taken seriously, if female candidates are covered in the context of how they look and what their hair is like and how they’re dressed as opposed to how the male candidates are referred to, this has an impact on women and girls.”
Actress, Activist, Cofounder of Women’s Media Center
“Women often don’t look like they’re presented in the magazines, even in magazines that are made for other women. The images don’t coincide with the reality of who we are. It’s such a difficult thing to endure that. How do you maintain a healthy self-esteem when you don’t have images around you that reflect you? I can’t stress enough how damaging it is—the constant barrage of thinness and youth and a kind of racial monochromatic idea of what beauty is. It’s really a tough thing for women. I don’t know how girls survive. There are just so many things challenging girls and women in their search for power and strength that we need to do all we can to help that along.”
Comedienne, Actress, Activist
All of the above quotes are from interviews by What Will It Take founder Marianne Schnall
Click here for tools and organizations that promote and advance women’s media representation
Click here for more articles about women in the media industry