Jessica Preece initially dismissed a request to be listed on a political science website as an expert on the Utah caucuses because, she said, “I don’t know every single thing that has ever happened in Utah politics.”
Then, the Brigham Young University professor thought again.
“It suddenly dawned on me that I had three publications, three articles written on Utah politics, including one in one of our most prestigious journals,” Preece said.
Why was it so easy for Preece to count herself out — and so quickly? Several new studies show it’s common. Women are less likely to be quoted in media outlets for commentary on politics, and they often do not consider themselves knowledgeable enough to give comments to journalists.
Indeed, according to a Junestudy called “Who Talks?” — a collaboration among the Women’s Media Center, the website GenderAvenger, and Rutgers University’s Center for American Women and Politics — men accounted for 76 percent of guest appearances on six morning TV shows.
This year, several organizations are studying the lack of female experts representedin election coverage and proposing solutions to a problem academicssay existed long before 2016.
In February, Samara Klar, a political science professor at the University of Arizona, read a Vox article called “We asked 6 political scientists if Bernie Sanders would have a shot in a general election.” All the experts quoted in the article were men.
“It was just kind of like, enough is enough, honestly,” Klar said.
So she started a website called Women Also Know Stuff, which lists female political experts by area of expertise to help journalists find sources and academic conference organizers scope out panelists. Klar calls it a “phone book of women” — it now includes around 1,000 women, including Preece.
The Vox reporter, Jeff Stein, has since apologized and said he would make an effort to include more women experts in his projects.
“Yeah, this was absolutely an oversight on my part. I should have done better, and I will next time,” he wrote on Twitter.
The tendency to quote men more often may occur, in part, because men are more likely to be seen as experts, particularly in political science, said Kelly Dittmar, a political science professor at Rutgers University and a scholar at the Center for American Women and Politics.
“Political science at its root is about power and relationships of power and that is still a . . . concept stereotypically associated with men and masculinity,” Dittmar said.
Yanna Krupnikov, a political science professor at Stony Brook University and a member of Women Also Know Stuff’s editorial board, said once journalists create networks of experts, they return again and again to those same people. Those initial contacts are often men.
The relative lack of women in political commentary is not exclusive to this year’s campaign. In 2012, the website 4thestate.net conducted an analysis of national print, television broadcast, and radio journalism and found that between November 2011 and May 2012, men represented the majority of experts quoted. Most organizations they studied — including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and “Face the Nation” — quoted men 65 to 78 percent of the time.
Michael Howe, a founder of the site — which is no longer active — said he did not find the results surprising, but he said it was interesting that both liberal and conservative outlets generally included more men.
“People are going and they are finding experts, and it’s a little bit of an echo chamber, and they are getting the same experts over and over again, and that tends to be a lot more men,” he said.
But including female voices in political coverage is especially important in the 2016 presidential election, some professors say, because gender issues are particularly pronounced.
“It goes beyond Hillary Clinton playing the woman card,” Dittmar said. “Donald Trump is performing or navigating gender, displaying his masculine credentials.”
Journalists, some professors cautioned, should not rely on women just to talk about Clinton.
Melissa Michelson, a political science professor at Menlo College, recalled she received more e-mails than usual in 2008 for comments on stories because Clinton, a woman, was running for president.
But Krupnikov said it is a “disservice” for journalists to “check the gender diversity quota by having someone comment on Hillary Clinton and leave the bigger matters on what’s happening in American politics to men.”
Meg Bernhard can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @meg_bernhard.