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Gander gap and news reading

How gender balance could mean billions for the newspaper industry

If each year the global gender gap in news reading was reduced by one percentage point, over the next five years, new women audiences would for the newspaper industry generate $11 billion and over ten years $ 38 billion. Today, there is a 11-12 percentage point gender consumption gap, according to a report commissioned by Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. 

A recent report from Reuters Institute indicates that women are more likely than men to say they avoid reading the news. Across the 46 countries surveyed, 35% of men said they often or sometimes avoided the news; for women the figure was 41%.

The report, “From Outrage to Opportunity: How to Include the Missing Perspectives of Women of All Colors in News Leadership and Coverage”, covers the UK, US, India, Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa. It is written by Luba Kassova, writer, researcher and founder of AKAS,  an international audience strategy consultancy, with a foreword by Laura Zelenko, Senior Executive Editor and Founder of New Voices at Bloomberg.

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The report says its investigation into the business case for gender equality shows a potential cumulative revenue opportunity of $43 billion between 2023 and 2027 and $83 billion between 2023 and 2032 for the global newspaper industry if the 11-12 percentage point addressable gender consumption gap was completely closed.

“Realistically, the gap could only be closed incrementally. If each year the gap was reduced
by one percentage point, over the next five years new women audiences would generate
$11 billion and over ten years $ 38 billion.”

The report says there is no silver bullet for creating gender balance in the news business. “While hiring more women leaders is an imperative starting point, it is simply not enough to resolve the issue. To accelerate change, women’s missing or muted voices must be amplified at each stage of the news value chain: i.e. in news leadership and newsrooms, in newsgathering, in news coverage, and in news consumption.” 

“Moreover, to improve gender and racial equity in news, organizations should drive change at the individual level, as typically happens now, but also at two other levels: the systemic and organizational.” 

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The report shows that 1 in 4 editors-in-chief (26%) across the six countries are women. This is marginally lower than the global average more than a decade ago. 

“There has been divergence across countries. For every woman who is an editor-in-chief, there are between two (in South Africa, the US and the UK) and 12 (in Indian regional news outlets) male editors-in-chief. 

The proportion of women editors-in-chief is highest in South Africa and the UK (37%) and lowest in India (11% in national and 8% in regional). In the US, Nigeria, and Kenya, the proportions are 35%, 18%, and 19% respectively

Over 80% of the interviewed news editors believe that newsrooms and news cultures are still dominated by men.  

“Lower representation and persistent gender stereotyping in news desk assignments are perceived as the two biggest barriers to women’s inclusion in news leadership.” 

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“Other barriers include bearing the brunt of the work-life imbalance in journalism, being on the outside of an all-boys club that aids career progression in journalism, harassment while on the job, and women being seen as ineffective in making their own case for change.”

“Changing the newsroom culture to be more inclusive; implementing gender equality policies; and measuring progress are perceived to be among the more successful tools in driving higher representation and inclusion in news organizations.” 

“The key drivers for all women’s inclusion in news leadership are: retaining talent, being intentional about change and introducing targets, improving women’s representation in top-tier management, allyship, and buy-in from both senior leadership and grassroots.” 

When it comes to showing women in the news, the report says that albeit from a low base, the proportion of women news experts has grown from 19% to 24% in the last five years globally.

“Lack of awareness of gender angles and the low perceived importance of gender stories are at the heart of the missing gender equity/equality storytelling in news”, the report says.

“The key perceived drivers for improving women’s representation and portrayal in news coverage at organizational level involve tackling the problem in a systematic way by setting and tracking targets.”

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