Sensing that female voices weren’t being sufficiently heard during the COVID-19 pandemic, researchers at the University of Michigan set out to assess the situation. The findings probably won’t come as a surprise.
They studied a five-week period of prime-time news slots—8 p.m. to 11 p.m. Eastern—for three major cable networks—CNN, Fox News and MSNBC. Out of 220 unique guests who appeared to talk about the pandemic, just 30% were women. A guest was defined as “any nonanchor individual speaking on-air. Network employees, contributors, and correspondents were included.”
Drilling deeper: of the 220 unique guests, 47 (21%) were physicians, only 12 of whom were women. When factoring in physicians who appeared multiple times, women accounted for 17 of 117 interviews. Only two female physicians appeared three or more times, compared with 10 men.
“The proportion of women speaking on COVID-19 content was no different from the proportion of women speaking on other content, suggesting that the paucity of female voices on cable news programs is not subject specific,” the researchers noted in a JAMA Internal Medicine research letter. “Greater diversity of voices might enrich discourse.”