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Don’t Women Have Opinions?

Don’t Women Have Opinions?

A new study was released yesterday by the OpEd Project — an organization whose goal it is to increase the number of women writing op-ed pieces for major news outlets — that said that, though there is an improvement in the percentages of female bylines in major news media, the numbers are still dismal. Furthermore, when women do write op-ed pieces, they are usually centered around “pink topics” — food, fashion, family and furniture. The study found:

While past Byline Surveys have found that legacy news outlets tend to feature the fewest female voices in op-eds (usually around 15 to 20 percent), the newest survey says there’s been an increase in the number of op-eds written by women in The New York Times (22 percent now compared to 17 percent in 2005), The Washington Post (19 percent now compared to 10 percent) and The Los Angeles Times (24 percent compared to 20 percent).

Even when editors solicit opinion pieces, women are more likely to turn down the opportunity, whereas men will usually jump at the invitation. It’s not just women who don’t have bylines, either. A similar study showed that “one-half of one percent of op-eds in The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal were written by Latinos; in The Washington Post, it was 0 percent. Asian Americans authored an average of 2 percent; blacks roughly 5 percent.”

Why is this happening? There is certainly no shortage of women who have opinions on topics, whether women’s issues or hard news topics. According to several professionals in the field, women are still grossly underrepresented in the media. The majority of commentators and writers we see are still male, and therefore it can be intimidating for women to jump into such a male-dominated field. Sue Horton, the Op-ed and Sunday opinion editor at the Los Angeles Times, thinks there is something even more interesting going on.

Though there isn’t any hard data on the subject, she says that women are more likely to write pieces about subjects they have specific knowledge and experience with, whereas men are more likely to submit “dinner party” pieces, or articles on any subject they happen to have an opinion on, whether they have experience with it or not. It makes sense, then, that men would jump at the opportunity to write a piece for which they had been solicited whereas women would not; men aren’t afraid to share their opinions on any topic, and women feel more pressure to do further research — a time-consuming process that many don’t have time for. Opinion pieces are also largely unpaid, and with women still not making the same amount of money as men for the same work, it follows that women would have to turn down time-consuming, unpaid writing opportunities.

The problem might be compounded by the way women tend to feel about themselves. In a recent interview, The OpEd Project founder, Catherine Orenstein was quoted saying, “A lot of [women] will in some way discount themselves and their knowledge. If you think about it, what it means is that there’s a disconnect between what we know and our sense that it actually matters.” If we don’t think that our opinions matter, we won’t be submitting them in writing to major news outlets.

In October of last year, I attended an OpEd Project seminar in Chicago, and it was one of the most valuable things I could have done for my writing career. Not only did we learn the basics of writing a compelling opinion piece and pitching that piece to major outlets, but we learned that our words mattered. The bulk of the morning portion of the session was spent detailing our individual expertise. They actually made us say, “I am an expert in…” which was incredibly difficult for some of us to do, largely because we felt that someone else needed to validate that expertise for us. Due to the seminar, I have published several opinion pieces for news media outlets, and plan on doing much more.

While some of the problem with getting women to write op-ed pieces is our own doubt that our voices matter, some of it is lack of access to information and contacts in the media. To help combat this problem, The OpEd Project has put together a free list of information about where to submit opinion pieces.

Even if you have not taken part in the seminar, you can use these resources for submitting and pitching your opinion pieces, and I, for one, urge you to do so. We need more women opinion writers!

 

Related Stories:

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand “Too Many American Women Are Sitting On The Sidelines”

Ladies, the Men of America Would Like You to Shut Up About Sports

The Myth of the “Girl Brain”

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34 comments

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3:24PM PDT on Aug 25, 2012

e have voices too. and luckily with many women raising kids (often alone) we have more say than society thinks.. we are shaping the future by molding our children into the people they become. so mind each word, each action, and each day.. you are the future to your children. you opinions and thoughts often get carried through them. Teach and love and inspire

1:38PM PDT on Jun 1, 2012

Even Margaret Thatcher no bastion of feminism said if you want something done ask a woman if you want something said ask a man.

11:50AM PDT on Jun 1, 2012

Although women may not have as many job oppertunities as an opt ed writer they should still be writting in their opinions to columist. Sometimes you get oppertunities though the back door.

7:20AM PDT on Jun 1, 2012

I am a woman, and boy do I have opinions!

Thank goodness I can express them.

4:22AM PDT on Jun 1, 2012

I watched a TED talk by a woman industrialist who said that when women do tasks successfully they attribute it to the group they're working in, while men attribute it to themselves. ...That we are more selfish and ambitious and bullshitty. We will take on a task and call ourselves experts in that field when it is blatantly obvious we aren't. And we men don't need anyone to validate us! Because we think (or know) that we are great at doing what needs to be done. Refusing to do it shows lack of confidence in our own abilities, which we see as weakness. And if there's a paying job to be done we will leap without thinking and deal with that when it comes, probably because if we can't think our way out, we can bang our way out! Looking before we leap iseems to be more of a male attribute, and timidity and humility has very little place in our lives. That women aren't embracing these qualities is a bad thing, because I don't think it is exclusively male, but that it has been battered and beaten and oppressed from the minds of women, degrading their confidence over millennia so they think that being upfront and bold is the male premise.

9:10PM PDT on May 31, 2012

Marginalization works well.

8:21PM PDT on May 31, 2012

Forgot to say thank you for the article and for the links, and also to thank James M. on behalf of the women who post comments on the care2 site - thank you - it is nice to feel that somebody might read them, and even if appropriate learn from them and at the very least appreciates them.

8:15PM PDT on May 31, 2012

It's the same in Universities, I have a PhD in existential metaphysics but could not get a lectureship - had I have had a PhD in moral philosophy or the philosophy of education or studied 'women's studies' or similiar I might have stood a chance, but obviously the big questions such as why we are here, and even where here is, is a subject that should be left to the 'big boys'. If even educated specialist opinions are not valued if they come from a women what chance have women got to express opinions and get them heard and valued.

6:30PM PDT on May 31, 2012

More proof of blanat sexism in our society. I hate that women are expected to only have valued opinions when it comes to the household and chores and that women believe it themselves.

3:31PM PDT on May 31, 2012

tHEY DO NOT WANT TO HEAR WOMEN'S OPINIONS UNLESS IT AGREES WITH THEIRS...THE MEDIA AND THE SYSTEM...ALL OTHER SHUT UP IS THE MOTTO...SOMETIMES YOU TAKE YOUR LIFE IN YOUR HANDS NOW A DAYS BEING A PART OF AMERICA WHERE FREEDOM OF SPEECH SHOULD BE DISALLOWED TO THE SYSTEM THAT PICKS ON ANYONE'S OPINIONS WHEN IT DOES NOT AGREE WITH THEIR OWN....NEWSPAPERS...ONLINE.......I THINK MEN STILL WANT THE FIRST AND IF POSSIBLE THE ONLY SAY..AND THE REASON WHY I DO NOT LIKE THE WOMEN RUNNING THIS WORLD IS THAT THEY HAVE ALL SACRIFICED MORE THAN I EVER DID FOR A JOB...AND I CAN PROVE SO.

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