ABC News Australia is expanding its programming and content for female audiences. Efforts to reach gender diversity like these are enthusiastically welcomed and set a standard for other media conglomerates in a traditionally male-dominated society.
However, this is the first step of a long journey to reach gender and racial equality.
There are two facets of ABC’s 50:50 project. The first is developing and commissioning more content across the ABC News network that women find relevant and interesting. While it is important to keep a female audience in mind when developing content, why is this not the standard?
According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, in 2017 there were 12.4 million females living in Australia (50.4% of the total population). Why then are media corporations systematically ignoring half of the population?
The second facet of ABC’s 50:50 project is about working to increase the contribution of women as expert talent or commentators and contributors across their programming. This might be the most obvious choice for media conglomerates to take when it comes to increasing their overall gender diversity. It is disheartening that an initiative like this has to be put in place for media corporations to make their news “more appealing and relevant to the audiences [they] serve.”
Of course this includes women. Other companies need to follow suit to achieve equal representation of women when it comes to talent on their shows.
Next steps other media corporations can take by using ABC News as an example include:
- Start with data – create a measurable benchmark to hold organisations responsible
- Create a forum – include other organisations trying to solve the same problem; include organisations that have already solved for it
- Host events – bring together the brightest minds in the industry to open and prioritise this conversation
In terms of ABC News content overall, why are 'women’s topics' being categorised as work, parenting, health and personal finance? Why can’t women be interested in mathematics, sciences, technology, politics, etc.? I encourage media corporations to not belittle women and what they’re interested in by confining them to these topics. As for personal finance and fertility, it is encouraging to see these topics covered by media corporations more prominently now, but these are not topics that should only be addressed to women.
The ABC News 50:50 project was originally meant to last for several months, but highly encouraging early results meant it has now been extended into the foreseeable future.
This project shouldn’t be for months, it should be for life. It’s an ongoing battle women are fighting and will continue to fight.
Our own data analysis has shown that we interview men far more often than we do women, and we're also under-representing women from Indigenous and culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.