British Columbia

Women in news appear infrequently as experts: ex-journalist

Have you ever noticed that if a professor appears on the news, it's likely a man? So has Shari Graydon and her organization, Informed Opinions.

Informed Opinions says women hold themselves to a higher standard of authority, and doubt themselves

Shari Graydon makes a presentation. She says that women need to be more assertive and aggressive when presented with the opportunity to speak in the media. (Mike Gifford/Flickr)

A group that works to give women stronger voices in the media says women need to claim the spotlight and stop declining media requests.

Shari Graydon is the founder of Informed Opinions. She says that female researchers, professors and others in high positions are often asked to be expert voices in the media, but often their expectations of themselves are so high that they pass on the opportunity.

A former journalist, Graydon and her group made a splash on Twitter when a photo of one of their pamphlets aimed at journalists was widely circulated.

"When they get an email from a journalist, or a call, they will delete the email, or they will automatically, by default, refer the journalist to someone else. and the words they will often use are, 'I'm really not the best person,'" Graydon told On The Coast host Stephen Quinn.

Graydon says there are lots of ideas for why women do this, but she believes it's because women hold themselves to a higher standard of authority.

"When a guy gets called and asked to comment he says to himself, 'Well, sure, I've got 15 years of experience, people pay me to talk about this sort of stuff. Just try and stop me,'" she said. "The woman, instead, can immediately call to mind at least three people who know that particular issue better than she does. And she thinks, therefore, that she can't possibly comment."

Graydon thinks that a big part of the issue is socialization, and that women will be held to a higher standard than men.

During their conversation, Stephen Quinn noted that convincing women experts to come on the air has been a problem on On The Coast, leading to men being tapped as expert voices much more frequently.

Graydon and her organization runs courses and seminars to help women who might be called upon to comment in the media. She says women need to be more aggressive and assertive when presented with opportunities to comment in the media.

She also says that women declining media opportunities has wider consequences.

"If women don't comment, then the experience-informed perspective that we have and the priorities that flow from those, don't get the same attention and don't have the same capacity to influence government decision-making and policies and priorities," she said.

"We all benefit when there are a greater diversity of voices informing the collective decisions that we make."

To hear the full interview, click the audio labelled: Why do women not appear in the news as experts?