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women in media

A project to increase women voices in media

There are fewer women than men being interviewed and talking to the media. Many have tried to change that but with limited success. However, the BBC says that the corporation´s project called 50:50 has increased women representation in BBC content with nine percentage points in a year.

Since launch when the BBC invited other companies to join the project, more than 75 organisations across 22 countries have begun to use the 50:50-program to reach gender balance.

Between June and November last year, the BBC took 2 563 snapshots of gender balance in programs, online content, events etc, with 1 219 (48%) reaching 50% women contributors. During the same period in 2019, 2 528 snapshots showed 988 (39%) reached the 50% – a nine percentage point increase on the same period in the previous year.

We’ve made control a core principle of the BBC’s 50:50 Project, which uses data to increase the number of women contributors on content. Control in this context means a journalist or content-maker’s ability to choose the people they include in their article, TV, or radio news piece, writes Nina Goswami, BBC’s Creative Diversity Lead, presenting the project at Digital Content Next (earlier called Online Publishers Association).

”For example, when the British Prime Minister Boris Johnson makes an announcement around the latest coronavirus restrictions, a journalist would be compelled to include a statement from him. He is intrinsic to the storytelling. Therefore, he’s not an element of the news item that can be controlled. However, sourcing the business owner impacted by the new announcement is in the power of the journalist to control.”

”This is what 50:50 concentrates on. It looks to create change by identifying the voices that are in the power of the journalist and content-maker to influence, and it is working to increase women’s representation at the BBC.”

BBC News presenter Ros Atkins, who started 50:50 in 2017, said “the golden rule of 50:50 is that the best contributor always takes part. It is not a quota system. Rather, it is an opportunity to identify where representation may be lacking and then for content-makers to go out and see if they can find new voices to enrich their content, while improving the output’s gender balance.”

”There are more than 650 teams across the BBC taking part in 50:50, not just the news, but also sports, factual and entertainment. To support their search there is also a central expert database with more than 1 500 women contributors available to the content teams”, Ms Goswami explains.

BBC has made a survey of 2 000 BBC online users to study the effects and it showed that 39% had noticed a shift toward more women contributors and 32% of women aged 25 to 34 are now consuming more content as a result, Ms Goswami said.


In March 2020, as the world went into lockdown, two-thirds of BBC teams that submitted data reached 50% women representation, up from a third when they joined the project.

Project Lead Lara Joannides had feared that the challenges of coronavirus could have a detrimental impact on representation because 50:50 is a voluntary scheme, and the corporation moved down to critical services. Despite this, the challenge results saw a nine percentage point increase on the previous year.

Rachel Foley, Senior Journalist and 50:50 Lead for the BBC News Channel, said: “There haven’t been many upsides to Covid-19. But one is that it appears to have made it easier for women to appear on air. I’ve noticed more female contributors are able to speak to us live on the BBC News Channel since the pandemic began because they can do so from their own homes using apps like Zoom or Skype.”

Moonshot News is an independent European news website for all IT, Media and Advertising professionals, powered by women and with a focus on driving the narrative for diversity, inclusion and gender equality in the industry.

Our mission is to provide top and unbiased information for all professionals and to make sure that women get their fair share of voice in the news and in the spotlight!

We produce original content, news articles, a curated calendar of industry events and a database of women IT, Media and Advertising associations.

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