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Women ‘severely underrepresented’ in Swiss media

Most women: the Wochenzeitung (WOZ) newspaper. © Keystone / Gaetan Bally

Women make up less than a quarter of people appearing in Swiss print and online media articles, a figure which has hardly changed since 2015, according to a study.

This content was published on July 1, 2021 - 15:43
Keystone-SDA/dos

Apart from a short-lived small boost in 2019, most likely due to the women’s strike and national elections, the share of women appearing in Swiss media articles has remained around 23%, the University of Zurich said on Thursday.

While the numbers are nearly identical across the German, French, and Italian-speaking regions of the country, they vary more widely when it comes to the type of article, as well as the newspaper in question.

Women are least present in sports (13%) and economics (17%) articles; they most appear in “human interest” (31%) and culture (27%) articles. In politics, they are right on the overall average of 23%.

As for individual papers and websites, the WOZ weekly has the highest female presence (29%), ahead of public broadcaster rts.ch (27%) and blick.ch (27%). The Neue Zürcher Zeitung (19%), watson.ch (20%) and the Bund (20%) have the least.

In general, the study also found that women are twice as likely to be cited in articles containing original reporting by a journalist for a media company, rather than in articles based on wire reports by news agencies.

Societal structures

Lisa Schwaiger,  a communications expert at the Research Centre for the Public Sphere and Society (Fög Institute), said “the severe underrepresentation of women in Swiss media is a result of prevailing societal structures and journalistic habits”.

Swiss newsrooms, she suggested, can rectify the situation by dedicating more resources to finding women experts, as well as female representatives and voices.

The study used machine learning tools to analyse 106,706 print and online media articles in Switzerland.

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