Thursday, April 8, 2010

The other gender gap: Who are your sources?

My friend Lizzie Skurnick wades into the NPR discussion about how airtime and sources lean heavily male. Curious, I did some math on my source lists, which turn out to be about two-fifths female in preK-12 and one-third female in higher ed. Certainly if you look at the usual cast of characters commenting on education in the Washington policy world, it is very, very male—and very white. If you have a deep list that includes practitioners and obscure sociology professors, it tends to diversify.

Take a look at your go-to sources, and let me know what you find.


  1. Alexander HoffmanApril 8, 2010 at 10:05 AM

    1) Your second link is bad.

    2) Shouldn't we differentiate between derivative gender gaps and original gender gaps? When far fewer women when to law school, wouldn't we expect law firms to have more men? Now that women outnumber men at top law schools, would would expect that to show up among lower ranks at law firms, but we'd expect the senior ranks to reflect the changing gender breakdowns below.

    3) When it comes to YOUR sources, shouldn't you look at the pool you are drawing them from? Isn't this a derivative gender gap, rather than an original one? If most practioners are women, I would expect most practioner-sources to be women. If most policy wonks are men -- I don't know if they are -- then I would expect that to show up in the sources, too.

    So, don't just look at the source lists. Rather, think about where you are drawing your sources from, whether your sources are representative of that pool and whether you are drawing from the right pools, given the subject matter at hand.

    But do NOT, under any circumstances, alter your source list to fit some pre-conceived notions of gender balance that are not direclty related to the story and subject your are working and the quaity of the information you get from your sources.

  2. Right. There is an original gender gap, say, when you are looking at D.C. policy wonks, which is why I mentioned that. Broadening the pool of types of sources you talk to—which is good journalism anyway—gives you a broader diversity in gender (and probably race).