New research has demonstrated that male experts outnumber female experts by more than 10 to 1 on Ghana’s leading radio and TV news programmes. The Ghana Women Expert project sought to count the number of women interviewed in the media as experts and authority figures to highlight the gender gap by drawing attention to the under-representation and mis-representation of women in media.
There are many ways of demonstrating the gender gap in public life. For some years the journalism department at City University of London has run a project which investigated who speaks on television news – monitoring the use of male and female experts in major UK news broadcasting outlets.
Journalists and broadcasters cannot influence who makes the news but they do have choices about the expert guests invited as interviewees and to comment on news events. Over the past 10 years, since the City project began, the gender ratio of experts in the UK has steadily improved – from over four men for each woman expert appearing, to below 2.2 men to each woman (2.2:1) in the most recent data.
We were interested to investigate the gender balance in expertise outside the UK and how this compared.
Using funding made available by the UK Global Challenge Research Fund, we partnered with colleagues to set up the Ghana Women Expert. Part of this project’s work focused on monitoring six of the most wide reaching and important news broadcasts (two TV and four radio).
We found that male experts and analysts dominated all of the flagship news programmes.
Understanding the landscape
The survey was conducted under the direction of Nana Ama Agyemang Asante and Betty Kamkam-Boadu, both freelance journalists in Accra, with support and funding from the City University of London’s journalism department. The six programmes surveyed were: Peace FM’s Kookroko; Citi FM’s Citi Breakfast Show; Starr FM’s Morning Starr; TV3’s Key Points; Joy Tv’s PM Express; and Joy FM’s Super Morning Show. Over the five months surveyed, monitors counted the women interviewed as experts and authority figures, the time allocated to them, and the topics they covered.
Data gathered across the Ghanaian news media between February and June 2021 shows that men dominate radio and television programmes overall – in terms of presenters, correspondents and interviewees. And the same imbalance was true of invited experts.
The under-representation of women’s voices and issues in media is reflected across other sectors in the country. Only 30 women are in Ghana’s 275-member parliament, while only eight of the eight-five ministers are women. Men occupy most of the leadership positions even in organisations where women dominate like the Ghana Registered Nurses Association and the Ghana Union of Traders.
Data collected for the project indicates that there were a total of 1,623 broadcast interviews conducted by the six monitored programmes over the period. Interviews with invited expert guests comprised 1,468 out of the total 1,623 of all broadcast interviews during the time surveyed.
Yet only 129 of the expert guests were female, representing just 8.8% of the total number of experts interviewed on all the programmes. Generally throughout the period, the ratio of male to female experts was less than 10 to one. This indicates that, in every five weeks on the six selected shows, only one female expert is interviewed compared to 10 male experts.
Nana Ama commented:
The study shows that despite being 51.2% of the population, Ghanaian women’s voices and expertise remain unacknowledged in the media. Producers argue that the disparity is due to a reluctance on the part of women to appear on shows, but the figures also show that male experts were given more time during interviews than women. The media’s gender gap is not only unfair to women, but it also reinforces harmful and dangerous gender stereotypes.
The research project also interviewed some of the programme producers and hosts to explore why so few women experts were appearing on their shows. The responses in many cases highlighted the reluctance of women interviewees to put themselves forward. For example a host at JOY Fm which featured 320 men and 30 female experts during the period surveyed responded:
I’ve had many female guests you chase give many excuses why they cannot be on the show. They blame the timing, or the subject is just simply too controversial or that it is too political and they don’t want to get involved.
Of the six programmes surveyed the one that featured the most women was Morning Starr (48 female experts compared with 364 men). This show also had the greatest total minutes of airtime devoted to womens’ voices (just over two and a half hours) – although mens’ voices by comparison were heard for over 35 hours. But their host too – Francis Abban reported that potential women experts are hard to woo.
I don’t get to interview a lot of women. Every morning things happen and when things happen, the natural order is to find somebody as soon as possible, who can readily respond to what’s happening on the go. Now, often when you call a man they may give you a minute or two to ask for context and then they will say, okay, let’s go. But for a woman they will say, ‘Well, I will need about six to 12 hours to prepare well to give you proper context’. And so once that happens, the natural fall-on option is not the woman.
Research in the UK interviewing broadcasters as part of the City University project had revealed a similar response. Women apparently need to be wooed “like a princess.”
Worst of all in the survey was the TV programme PM Express which did not interview a single female expert throughout the five months that were surveyed.
Given this wide disparity it looks as if “blaming” women for not being more willing to come forward is not an adequate response. If women are to have a public voice in Ghana’s media ecology then a great deal more needs to happen.