Women’s representation and voice in media coverage of the coronavirus crisis

Author/editor: Jones, Laura
Year published: 2020

Abstract

This research note summarises the results of a big-data analysis of 146,867 articles related to coronavirus published between 1 March and 31 July 2020 and drawn from 15 sources across the UK, Australia and the US.

Using natural language processing techniques, we searched each article for well-known individuals featured and quotations. Through this analysis, we established (1) the gender of well-known experts, (2) the proportion of female voices by article category and topic and (3) the visibility of politicians by gender.

Our key findings:

  • Women are a minority among mentions of prominent economists and STEM experts (those famous enough to have their own Wikipedia pages) in articles on the Covid-19 crisis. For every mention of a prominent female STEM expert, there are 19 mentions of a male counterpart. For every mention of a prominent female economist, there are five mentions of a male economist.
  • Only a third of quotations in articles concerning the pandemic were attributable to women, but with large variation by article category and topic. 37% of quotations in the health coverage were attributable to women, compared with 27% in business articles, and 24% in science and politics articles.
  • When looking at coverage of specific sub-topics linked to the coronavirus crisis, there was a clear divide in female voice between traditionally feminine and masculine issues. Women make up over half of those quoted in articles related to childcare and domestic violence, and just over a third in those related to education – but less than a sixth of those quoted on topics related to finance and the economy.
  • Female politicians make up just four of the top 20 most mentioned domestic politicians in articles related to coronavirus in the UK, Australia and the US, confirming that in each country the political response has had a largely male face.

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