Tuesday, 21 June 2011

No way to start the week, this

I subscribe to the podcast of the Radio 4 Program "Start the Week with Andrew Marr", which means I have a nice chronological record of each week's guests right there in my file management software. Back in February, I chanced to notice that the number of female participants on each program tended to be very stable, and tended to be very low. In other words, one woman per program. Seeing as the presenter is male, and they normally have 4 guests altogether, this meant that most weeks female voices made up at best 20% of the content of the hour-long show.

I wrote to complain, as you do, and got a bunch of excuses in response (women write fewer books; they're harder to contact; they really do try; sometimes they have more than one woman - that sort of thing). I more or less gave up on the show - I've frankly heard enough of what men have to say about the world by now - but continued to have it downloaded to my PC. Today, out of cussed curiosity, I decided to have another look at the last 6 months of shows - inclusive of the period in which I corresponded with the producer.

And the results were - drumroll...

  • Out of 21 programs broadcast between Jan 1st and today, 16 (76%) had only one woman on them
  • Five programs (24%) had 2 women; none had more than that, and 0% had a female majority on the guest list
  • The average number of female participants over a 6 month period is 1.2; the average number of male participants is 2.7
  • Including the presenter, on average female voices are heard on the program 25% of the time (less if they happen to not take up an exactly equal share time-wise)
In other words, not much has changed. Intriguingly, there was a run of 4 straight programs in April that had 2 women on them. Was this perchance connected to my protests, made about 5 weeks earlier? Who knows - but just in case it was, why not write to Radio 4 and point them to this blog post?

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