Typical professor: an older man.
Typical professor: an older man.

Professors interviewed by Norwegian print media are usually men

Especially if the person who interviews them is a male journalist.

Published

There aren’t many of them at the universities, but they are found even more rarely in the newspaper columns of VG and Aftenposten.

Only two out of ten professors interviewed were women in the two Norwegian print newspapers in 2016, according to results from a recent study.

The study included 1378 articles, for which a total of 859 professors were sources. Researchers did not look at online newspapers.

Most professors in Norway are men. At the time of the study, 28 per cent of the professors were women. Last year, they made up 31 per cent, according to NIFU, the Nordic Institute for Studies in Innovation, Research and Education.

However, female professors were underrepresented in the newspapers.

Men interview men

This skewed distribution is largely due to male journalists.

When a man interviews a professor, only one time in ten is it a woman.

Female journalists talk to far more women – in fact more often than the gender distribution at research institutions would indicate. Almost every third professor mentioned in female journalists’ articles is a woman.

This doesn’t help too much since the majority of journalists writing the articles are men.

The fact that women interview women more often is consistent with findings from other studies.

Mostly social sciences

A number of surveys show that women appear less frequently in the media than men.

Only one in five media experts is a woman, according to the Global Monitoring Project, which surveyed several newspapers on one randomly selected day in 2015.

Had the VG and Aftenposten journalists written more about the natural sciences, the professors’ gender distribution would have been even more skewed.

They are mostly social scientists, the professors who appear in these two newspapers. And among social scientists, the share of female and male professors is almost equal.

Sex, dieting and cohabitation

Topics having to do with the law and politics constantly pop up, such as the 2016 presidential elections.

Health comes second, with a preponderance of female professors.

Male professors dominate in news and opinion pieces.

Women often appear in feature articles, which are more personal and less current.

While women are more frequently interviewed about sex, dieting and cohabitation, men dominate conversations about finances.

Not nationwide

Some regulars frequent the two Norwegian newspapers, especially in the field of finance. There are even fewer women here.

The most frequently used source is economist Tor W. Andreassen from the Norwegian School of Economics. Sexologist Bente Træen at the University of Oslo is the only woman among the 14 professors interviewed to be mentioned more than ten times during the year.

The regulars tend to speak largely about their own field, rather than on broader topics or national interests.

The situation then, is on the same level as it was ten years ago, when only 18 women counted themselves among the 100 most cited professors in Norwegian newspapers, according to a Morgenbladet survey.

Reference:

Sigrun Wessel Svenkerud and Brit Bolken Ballangrud: Kvinnelige og mannlige professorers synlighet i mediene. En undersøkelse av kvinnelige og mannlige professorer i VG og Aftenposten. (The visibility of female and male professors in the media. A survey of female and male professors in VG and Aftenposten.) Norwegian Media Magazine, vol. 26, No. 4 2019.

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Read the Norwegian version of this article at forskning.no