Representing women? Leadership roles and women in Canadian broadcast news

The purpose of this paper is to examine the representation of women in Canadian broadcast news coverage, exploring the notion of substantive representation as it relates to gender, leadership and framing.
Using computer-aided text analysis software, the authors analyzed the frequency of women appearing in on-air roles, the way in which they are framed, as well as technical and expressive details, such as how they are featured. In total, the authors analyzed representation of 2,031 individuals in the four suppertime local news broadcasts from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. Framed in an ecological model of complex social change, this paper focuses on understanding how women are presented in Canadian broadcast media.
This study finds that women are under-represented in Canadian broadcast media. Furthermore, it finds that women are less likely to be framed as leaders or experts and are less likely to hold news host or anchor positions. For all major news broadcasters analyzed, women are less likely to be portrayed positively or in leadership/expert positions and are more often represented as victims. They are less likely to appear on screen and are more likely to be referred to off-screen, paraphrased and cited rather than speaking for themselves.
Research limitations/implications
By framing this study in an (critical) ecological, this study moved beyond required descriptive benchmarking to examine the degree of substantive representation of women. However, the sample of the study is only a snapshot of Canada’s largest city, and, therefore, more research involving further a comparative analysis of cities, a variety of print sources and online media outlets is needed. Future research might include more qualitative analysis of the representation, the type of representation and the factors affecting levels of representation. For example, such research might explore the practices in broadcast organizations, the way in which stories are framed and how guests selected. Also of interest is the relationship between women’s representation at the decision-making table, as an input, and the representation of women in on-air roles, as an outcome.
Practical implications
The implications of this article are important for understanding the complex factors affecting female leadership across sectors, particularly, the Canadian broadcast industry, the barriers they face and the strategies that may lead to their advancement.
This study moved beyond descriptive benchmarking to examine the degree of substantive representation of women by coding the frames, roles and means of quotation experienced by women on broadcast news.

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