In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section News Media Coverage of Women

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews and Core Concepts
  • Textbooks
  • Journals
  • Stereotyping in News Media Portrayals of Women
  • Representation of Women Politicians in the News
  • News Media Coverage of Women in Sports
  • News Media Coverage of Violence against Women

Communication News Media Coverage of Women
Ingrid Bachmann
  • LAST REVIEWED: 27 June 2022
  • LAST MODIFIED: 27 June 2022
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756841-0278


The representation of women in news and other fact-based media is complex and presents a mixed picture of women as subjects and actors in society. Women are largely underrepresented in news coverage and portrayed in stereotypical and simplistic ways, and women’s issues are also marginalized as legitimate topics of news media interest. Scholarship has consistently shown that women appear less often and less prominently in news coverage, either as subjects or sources, are more likely to be undermined by media (often via trivialization and sexualization), and are subject to a media treatment that is largely gendered, subjecting women to a coverage that lends itself to a specific kind of scrutiny and portrayal. Both early works and current research on this area analyze news discourses about women as newsmakers and sources, and pays attention to the emergence of particular constructions of femininity and “women’s issues” in media coverage. The evidence points to the news industry not treating women the same way they cover men, thus reflecting and further cementing the inequities of power and privilege based on gender hierarchies and which are deeply ingrained in society. Women have historically been left out of the public sphere and have had less power to speak and be heard in the public realm, and in the 21st century—important inroads in gender equality notwithstanding—women continue to face marginality and misrepresentation in news coverage, with their problems not considered newsworthy. Therefore, these mediated discourses are not harmless—they tell women what to do and how to act, often with limited repertoires that undermines women’s real-life circumstances and options, and have implications for both men and women in society. The underlying reasons for such coverage are complex, as it is not that media conspire to exclude women, but that they rely on traditional gender interpretations that serve as a ready-made framework for news coverage, one that ultimately serves to slant media coverage and promote sexism as natural and common sense. Most of the scholarship on the intersection of gender and media is feminist and critical, and specific examinations of women and/in news often are not different. Scholarship on news coverage of women often appears within works with a broader scope in gender and media, as shown in some the works cited here, which are broad in nature, but all include entries focused on the relationship of women and news.

General Overviews and Core Concepts

The earliest studies exploring the relationships between women and news are from the 1970s, including the foundational work Tuchman, et al. 1978, which calls attention to the pervasive exclusion of women and women’s issues as legitimate topics of news media. Research reveals that in the last forty years little has changed with regards to how (and how little) women are portrayed in news media content, as shown by Macharia 2021 and Djerf-Pierre and Edström 2020, as well as Gallego 2013 (in Spanish), which suggest that it will take several decades to close the gender gap in traditional news media. Publications addressing the problematic representation of women in journalistic coverage, such as Carter, et al. 2014, often underscore how news media content inform and enforce socially shared perceptions about women and their places (including sex-role stereotypes). In promoting gender justice, feminist scholars have also long advocated for improving the images of women on fact-based media and for reconsideration of what they deem the masculinist cast of what constitutes news, as Byerly and Ross 2004, Gallagher 2001, and van Zoonen 1994 demonstrate. Crenshaw 1991 calls for identifying systems of oppression and of privilege beyond gender. Early works on the topic of women and news often appear in edited collections and monographs with a broader scope on gender and mediated communication, as shown here.

  • Byerly, Carolyn M., and Karen Ross, eds. 2004. Women and media: International perspectives. Malden, MA: Blackwell.

    The book offers original research examining key issues of gender-media relations in different genres, media, and countries, highlighting the nuances of women’s under- and misrepresentation in media in production, consumption, and reception. The different chapters also underscore how media can promote gender equality.

  • Carter, Cynthia, Linda Steiner, and Lisa McLaughlin, eds. 2014. The Routledge companion to media and gender. New York: Routledge.

    A thorough examination of today’s media landscape and gender studies in a wide range of contexts. It covers the history of the scholarship in the topic and tackles ongoing debates as well as new trends and controversies. It does so with a global and intersectional perspective.

  • Crenshaw, Kimberle. 1991. Mapping the margins: Intersectionality, identity politics, and violence against women of color. Stanford Law Review 43:1241–1299.

    DOI: 10.2307/1229039

    The foundational work on intersectionality, which asserts that oppression must be examined in terms of multiple and intersecting identities that allow individuals to be discriminated against in several ways simultaneously. This approach has served to enrich the analyses of media representation of women by considering that structures and power relations that influence women’s status also have to with intersecting dimensions of identity such as race, ethnicity, or class.

  • Djerf-Pierre, Monika, and Maria Edström, eds. 2020. Comparing gender and media equality across the globe: A cross-national study of the qualities, causes, and consequences of gender equality in and through the news media. Gothenburg, Sweden: Nordicom.

    Relying on a comparative approach, this volume addresses well-documented gender disparities in news media and examines the structural underpinnings for women’s lesser visibility and lack of voice in journalistic coverage. With data from fifty-nine different countries, the analysis goes beyond sheer numbers to thoroughly consider the multiple theoretical and empirical understandings of gender inequality in the media.

  • Gallagher, Margaret. 2001. Gender setting: New agendas for media monitoring and advocacy. New York: Palgrave.

    This work tackles the role of media activists in promoting diversity and a more gender-inclusive shift in mediated content. The volume pays great attention to informational and entertainment media’s portrayals of gender, and how these reinforce patterns of discrimination against women in society.

  • Gallego, Juana. 2013. De reinas a ciudadanas: Medios de comunicación, ¿motor o rémora para la igualdad? Madrid: Aresta Mujeres.

    The most up-to-date volume in Spanish addressing the problematic representation of women in mass media; the title translates as “From queens to women citizens: Mass media, motor or hindrance for equality?” The book pays great attention to the limited repertoire of media portrayals of women and the pervasiveness of gender stereotypes in Spanish media.

  • Macharia, Sarah. 2021. Who makes the news? 6th Global Media Monitoring Project (GMMP). Toronto: World Association for Christian Communication.

    The GMMP is a multi-country study of women’s visibility in the news, conducted every five years. Its 2020 edition, applied in 116 countries and monitoring news content from more than two thousand different media houses, is the most complete examination of gender inequality and the current state of women’s representation in news coverage. Overall findings show that women are 25 percent of people in the news in traditional media worldwide, and 27 percent in news media and news tweets.

  • Tuchman, Gaye, Arlene Kaplan Daniels, and James Benét, eds. 1978. Hearth and home: Images of women in the mass media. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.

    One of the earliest works exploring the relationships between women and news, and a foundational publication about media content about and for women. In the introduction, Gaye Tuchman advances the concept of “symbolic annihilation” to refer to how media destroy women by a combination of omission, trivialization, and condemnation.

  • van Zoonen, Liesbet. 1994. Feminist media studies. London: SAGE.

    Considered a classic text on the insights of feminist theory and research on the role of media in the construction of gender, this book lays the foundation for understating the staples of feminist critique of media, more so since matters of representation have always been important for contemporary feminist scholarship.

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