“The persistent gap in media coverage is produced by a mix of two ingredients,” said Eran Shor, an associate professor in the Department of Sociology at McGill University and the lead author of the study, which found that 82 percent — nearly five out of every six names referenced in the media — are men’s. “The ingredients are the media’s preoccupation with leaders at the expense of everyone else and the well-known ‘glass ceiling’ that continues to block off working women’s access to leadership positions.”
According to Shor, he and his co-authors discovered that among “obscure individuals” — people who make the news only once or twice — there was near parity in terms of male and female mentions.
“However, the media focuses nearly exclusively on individuals at the top of occupational and social hierarchies, who are mostly men: CEOs, congressmen, movie directors, and the like,” Shor said. “And because these famous individuals account for most of the name occurrences in the news, the overall coverage difference between women and men has remained extremely wide.”…
Contrary to speculation by earlier researchers, Shor and his co-authors showed that women’s coverage was not higher in news produced by liberal media organizations. “This is a surprising finding because there is some literature suggesting that liberal news outlets may cover women’s issues more than conservative ones,” Shor said. “They do not. There is also quite a lot of literature that suggests having women as editors in chief or managing editors or more women on editorial boards would make a difference but, once again, that is not the case.”
A related test of this could then look at social sectors where women are in more positions of leadership and see whether men and women have more parity in media mentions.
There are also issues here with causation going both ways. Leaders are at the top of social hierarchies partly because the media pays them so much attention. People could be in particular important positions – like leading companies or in top posts of governments – but not all of these positions get equal time. In other words, the media plays in important role in influencing who is viewed as an important leader in the first place.