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Open Right

Clementine Ford: Are Women Invisible?

Session Info:

If the media is a portal through which we see the world, how does the conspicuous absence of women and their voices skew how people experience the world around them?

The statistics of gender representation in the media and pop culture are very revealing. For example:

  • Only around 20-30% of visible mainstream media roles are performed by women
  • In 1995, only 17% of news stories featured a woman as their subject. In 2010, that figure had limped ahead to a pathetic 24% – a mere 7% jump in 15 years.
  • Overall, men are overwhelmingly more likely to be the subjects of media focus – three to one in fact – and when women ARE the subjects of a news story, we are more likely to be presented as victims, to have our family status mentioned or to simply be photographed.
  • Women feature least in news stories as official spokespersons or experts, at 19% and 20% respectively. Compare this to stats of men’s representation in these areas: when called on as a spokesperson or expert, men feature in at a whopping 81% and 80%
  • Of all the major box office family movies released between 2006 and 2009, only around 29.2% of the speaking roles were female

How can women and girls be expected to view themselves as entitled to equal space when the reflection we see of the world has us occupying so little of it? In this session, I will challenge the notion that equality has been achieved and urge women and girls to take up the space that is our right, not our privilege.


  • What kind of world is being reflected at us via the media and pop culture?
  • What sort of voice and reach do women have when we participate in these things?
  • What are the attitudes of those people who have the power to change these damning statistics?
  • What are some of the results this erasure has on the self esteem of women and girls?
  • Why can’t girls be ‘the main pirates’?
  • What happens when agencies and industries DO make the rare decision to treat women like equally valid and interesting protagonists in stories?
  • What are some of the prevailing attitudes about the ‘niche’ interest of women as a subject matter, and why do they still exist in 2014?

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