Prominent English newspapers have for long championed the cause of women's reservation in Parliament, detailing how a Bill is needed to ensure representation of women in the national legislature.
It seems, however, that they have done little to ensure adequate female representation on their pages.
For three months, starting August, 2014, Newslaundry painstakingly reviewed four leading English newspapers to gauge the number of male and female contributors. And the results don't exactly paint a pretty picture: 73 per cent of the 8,681 articles examined were written by men. While women contributed to 27 per cent of the articles. Which means that for every one article written by a woman, there were about three pieces written by men. (The infographic following this report has the exact details.)
The papers examined were the Delhi editions of The Times of India (TOI), The Hindustan Times (HT), The Hindu and The Indian Express. TOI, The Hindu and HT are the country's top papers - in terms of circulation - in that order, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulations.
The Indian Express does not figure in the top five most widely circulated newspapers but was added to the list considering the impact it has owing to its readership in policy circles.
It would be fair to state that together the four papers set the agenda for the government and national discourse. And even as they dissect other establishments on issues of gender equality, our research shows that they don't quite pass the test themselves.
According to the numbers thrown up by our survey, few women seem to make it to the front page. In HT, women made up only 18 per cent of the bylines, while the figure stood at 28 per cent for both The Indian Express and TOI. The Hindu was close to achieving parity with 40 per cent of their articles written by women.
On the edit and op-ed pages, too, men accounted for most of the bylines, with HT again faring the worst -- women accounted for just 20 per cent of the bylines. The situation is better in the city pages, with The Hindu having more women contributors at 58 per cent.
Notably, all four papers have male editor-in-chiefs. In The Hindu, though, Editor Malini Parthasarathy is in charge for all practical purposes. There's never been a survey conducted to determine the composition of Indian newsrooms but women journalists in the industry testify that the editorial rooms are, in fact, overflowing with men, even as women comprise 50 per cent of the national population.
"Given that there are very few women editors in the top positions of power, newsroom culture is invariably masculine. This is borne out by 'male' conversations and sexist jokes heard in the newsroom," says Monobina Gupta, edit page editor at DNA.
The fact that the top echelons in these organisations are dominated by men would tend to automatically rule out active intervention by women editors in the choice of news – particularly front-page news.
Most journalists we spoke to agree that sexism in a male-dominated office in the media plays out subtly. "Out of the seven bosses I have worked for so far, four were women. All four were deeply respected in the newsroom, wielded great authority and, to the best of my knowledge, never encountered a challenge that had anything to do with their gender.
The only big (and worrying) difference I saw while discussing our female and male bosses outside of work is how personal attacks can get while talking about women heads. If she is a hard taskmaster or a slave driver, it 'must' be because she is unmarried (out of the four, two were single)," says a reporter working in a prominent news daily, not willing to be named."Oh, and the kind of rumours that swirl around the personal lives of single, female bosses. It can get vicious, at times," she adds.
A journalist working for a financial daily states that in the two newspapers she has worked for in over eight years, though there seemed to be many women journalists at the junior and mid-level, the most senior positions were almost entirely held by men. "I have felt that the print media does not discriminate while hiring initially but something seems to be happening along the way that results in mostly men occupying the top jobs."
In terms of pay, the perception, for good reason, is that women get paid less. "Women, and there are a few exceptions, do earn 20 per cent less than their male counterparts though they may be doing the same work. It is not rocket science -- that perceptions and qualitative importance attached to the work that men do, also get quantitatively translated, for the benefit of the male colleagues," says Anuradha Raman, Associate Editor, Outlook.
The gender gap becomes more distinct when you look at beats like sport, crime, national security (includes stories on the Central Bureau of Investigation, home and defence ministry and so on) and business.
Our survey shows that the business pages of the four papers combined had only 28 per cent women writing for them. The sport pages had only four per cent. Beats like crime, governance and policy and foreign policy, too, had a small percentage of women writing for them. Are women then still confined to reporting on what are traditionally looked on as so-called "soft" beats and women's issues?
"The sub-text of beat allocation has always reflected some sort of gender division. For instance, how many male journalists are given beats like HRD [Human Resource Development] or ministry for women and children? Similarly, very few women follow the so-called 'hard' beats like home ministry, defence, Intelligence Bureau, finance and so on. Since newsroom culture tends to be highly sexist, editors should make it a point to get male reporters to cover the 'soft'/feminised beats," says Gupta.
Another journalist working in a features team of a national daily says she is not sure whether beats get assigned based on gender, but it is "damn hard to get a male feature writer".
Hoot Editor Sevanti Ninan says that there are many women writing on sport, business and policy, and many are doing hardcore interviews on business news channels if you take the media industry as a whole. "Women cover political parties in most newspapers. If you are looking for missing women in the Indian media, you need to look at the regional press, particularly Hindi," she adds.
Raman concurs: "Some of the finest business journalists have been women and there are a lot of them in pink newspapers now."
It must be stated here that, though we would have liked this survey to be more elaborate and cover all English dailies to present a definitive picture of gender representation in the English print media, our resources did not permit us to do so. The survey should, then, be viewed as a primer to the dismal state of representation of women in the news media. And the bigger picture, if you go by the trend here, will only be starker.
We surveyed four national dailies for three months starting August, 2014. The idea was to get an overview of gender representation in English print media. The national dailies selected were: The Times of India, The Hindustan Times, The Hindu and The Indian Express. We scanned the front page, the city and nation pages, and the op-ed and edit page for bylines. Each byline was examined and classified as "men" and "women". Agency copies from PTI or IANS and articles that were not directly attributed to a reporter – like stories with no bylines or editorials – were not included. In case of unisex names, we checked the reporters' profile on Twitter to ascertain the gender.
We also scanned the newspapers to see what men and women were writing about. For this, we made a broad list of issues under which most articles were categorised. This included: business, sport, crime, environment, international news and foreign policy, governance and policy, violence against women, investigative reports, women's issues, and national security. The bylines of reports falling under each of these categories were again sorted as "men" and "women".
The scope of this exercise maybe limited and may not tell us enough about gender representation across the Indian media. But it gives us a fair idea of the underrepresentation of women in four of the leading newspapers in the country that often set the tone of national discourse and agenda.
We would like to do more such surveys on gender representation across Indian news media, including television news. But these surveys are labour-intensive and Newslaundry, with its current small team, is not sufficiently equipped to carry them out. But you can help. In case you would like to help us with research get in touch with us at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Or tweet to us at @newslaundry.
Sanjoy Narayan- Editor-in-chief
Total articles: 395
Women 18% Men 82%
Jaideep Bose- Editorial director
Total articles: 385
Women 28% Men 72%
Raj Kamal Jha- Chief editor
Total articles: 467
Women 28% Men 72%
N Ravi- Editor-in-chief
Total article: 591
Women 40% Men 60%
Total articles: 311
Women 33% Men 67%
Total articles: 303
Women 44% Men 56%
Total articles: 336
Women 58% Men 42%
Total articles: 381
Women 48% Men 52%
Total articles: 593
Women 15% Men 85%
Total articles: 401
Women 21% Men 79%
Total articles: 319
Women 34% Men 66%
Total articles: 520
Women 37% Men 63%
Total articles: 593
Women 15% Men 85%
Total articles: 176
Women 20% Men 80%
Total articles: 206
Women 24% Men 76%
Total articles: 409
Women 22% Men 78%
Total articles: 446
Women 32% Men 68%
Men 45% Women 55%
Men 62% Women 38%
Men 64% Women 36%
Men 68% Women 32%
Men 70% Women 30%
Men 72% Women 28%
Men 77% Women 23%
Men 78% Women 22%
Men 96% Women 4%
31%: The Indian Express
33%: The Hindu
24%: The Times of India
18%: Hindustan Times