From blindspots to snapshots: 6 ways to test how gender balanced your content is

WAN-IFRA Women in News is committed to closing the gender gap in the news. We believe gender-balanced newsrooms, boardrooms and content are key to building resilient and stable news organisations.
To support a healthier, more stable and inclusive news industry, we launched the WIN Gender Balance Tracker on March 8, 2022. It seeks to help individuals and news organisations see their blindspots when it comes to gender representation in content. The tool is available in English and Arabic: https://gendertracker.womeninnews.org/
Our Tracker provides insights into how gender balanced content is by measuring four indicators: the prominence of women in a story, what proportion of main characters in a story are women, how often women are quoted as sources and how many stories are written by women.
So how can you make the best use of the tool in your organisation? We offer six best practices you can choose from – or mix and match as you see fit. Your approach to gender balance tracking, however, should be dictated by your organisation’s overall strategy, target audience and annual priorities. 

1. Benchmark and revisit

To get an understanding of where your organisation is in terms of gender balance in content, we recommend tracking at least 40 articles every three months. You can adjust this number depending on how often your organisation publishes.

The results from this first quarter can provide a benchmark from which you measure future success or declines. For a quick guide on how to use the Tracker, you can access our user manual here.

2. Compare and contrast 

To find the blindspots in your organisation’s news content, compare and contrast how gender balanced articles are across specific sections, such as business, politics or entertainment. This will help you pinpoint which sections require greater focus.  

3. Track coverage 

Choose a major event or topic in your city, country or region, and track how balanced your coverage was. This could be elections, Covid-19 or climate change.

You can track published content for four weeks leading up to a major event like elections, or select a sample of 20 articles per quarter for ongoing topics like climate change. To test coverage of women-centric events like International Women’s Day, we recommend tracking all published content related to the event in the week leading up to it.

4. Track moments in time

It doesn’t have to be all or nothing when it comes to tracking. You can use the Tracker to get a snapshot of your organisation’s performance on a specific day, week, month or even year.

To get an organisational snapshot, we recommend taking a sample of 40 articles from different news sections for diversity. You can, however, adjust this number depending on the period you’re trying to get a snapshot of. Aim to get a sample of at least 1% of your content output for the Tracker.

5. Get a qualitative analysis

To get a deeper understanding of how well your organisation is doing with gender-balanced content, you can conduct a qualitative analysis of the sample of articles you have run through the Tracker.

This analysis measures the proportion of articles that:

  • Stereotype based on traditional roles and jobs: how many terms that depict women and/or men playing traditional societal roles or having traditionally female/male jobs have been used in your sample?
  • Stereotype based on physical appearance and age: how many terms that focus on women’s physical appearance and age are in your sample?
  • Stereotype based on personality traits and behaviour: how many terms that depict women and/or men as having specifically ‘female’ or ‘male’ personality traits or behaviour are in your sample?
  • Use explicit and offensive references to women: how many offensive or explicit terms to describe a woman, her body or her behaviour are in your sample?
  • Use gendered language (like policeman, chairman, girl boss): how many avoidable gendered terms were used in your sample?

6. Track individual journalists

To get individual journalists to generate more gender-balanced content, we propose the following steps:

  • set an organisation-wide goal for achieving gender balance in content and share it with journalists and staff
  • provide practical training on how to use the WIN Gender Balance Tracker
  • highlight news sections or individual journalists who are doing well at creating gender balanced content
  • include gender balance as a metric in journalists’ annual reviews or appraisals
  • communicate the importance of your organisation’s journey towards achieving gender balance during their onboarding.

If your organisation is interested in developing a strategy to track gender balance in your content, WIN can work with you to help find the best practice that fits your needs, goal, and overall organisational strategies. 

If you have any questions on the WIN Gender Balance Tracker, please contact WIN Manager, Research & Digital, Farah Wael via farah.wael@womeninnews.org

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