Over at The Guardian, Kira Cochrane asks “Why is British public life dominated by men?”
In a typical month,78% of newspaper articles are written by men, 72% of Question Time contributors are men and 84% of reporters and guests on Radio 4′s Today show are men. Where are all the women?
This is a topic I’ve explored extensively over the years. Most American pundits are men as well, and it’s not surprising that they compose 97% of OpEds in the Wall Street Journal. A great deal of the disparity is due to a strong hesitancy for many women to express our opinions in the public arena. Yet prominent female voices in our culture matter tremendously because they help to define our place in society.
So what’s going on? Well, if men get cast into the spotlight, you might say that women are examined under the microscope. As an author, blogger, researcher, and former Hill staffer, I regularly observe problems with the status quo across arenas. Rather then help women find their voices, we tend to send those testing the waters of public punditry dashing back out of focus.
As I’ve written before:
In my profession today I work closely with many talented men. We write on related topics and speak to similar audiences. Yet, I’m regularly reminded that I face many challenges they don’t have to deal with. No one jokingly whispers about their receptivity to sex during conferences just loud enough to overhear. No one questions whether they were hired so the boss could to get some “tail.” These kinds of experiences are common for women in and out of the ivory towers. We rarely complain for fear of being considered troublemakers or worse. We work hard and don’t want special treatment or penalization, so we turn a deaf ear, aware that some will never see past what’s on the surface. We stop speaking up and a negative feedback loop continues to reinforce gender roles over time.
Just consider the political arena: While candidates should never be chosen based on a number of X chromosomes, it would benefit everyone if women became more involved in the decision-making process given we represent about 50% of the population. But watching the way Sarah Palin and Hillary Clinton were each cast as stereotypes, ogled, and photo-shopped by the media during their 2008 campaigns, I often wondered to myself why any little girl would dream of being in that position someday?