The downfall of our first female PM might indicate that politics is still a boys club, but a new study reveals that knowledge of politics may also be a male arena.
Researchers from the UK’s Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) measured the media systems and political knowledge of men and women in 10 countries including Australia, Colombia, Japan, UK and US and found that news consumption is “very much a male activity”.
The research, carried out by interviewing 10,000 people across 10 countries, revealed that regardless of how advanced a country was in terms of gender-equality and economic status, the gender gap was “unmistakable”, with Canada, Norway and the U.K. found to have the widest knowledge gap.
“Our finding that the gap between men and women’s knowledge of politics is greater in Norway – a country ranked globally as one of the very highest in terms of gender equality – than in South Korea – a country with a much lower equality rating – is particularly striking,” lead researcher Professor James Curran said in a press release.
So what’s the reason for the significant gender knowledge gap?
According to ESRC, the answer stems from an existing male-bias in news coverage, and the fact there is still a tangible absence of women quoted or interviewed in the media which in turn directly affects how political information is communicated and received by both genders.
“Such under-representation and topical bias of women in news media may curb women’s motivation to acquire political knowledge actively, and discourage them from political participation,” co-researcher Professor Kaori Hayashi suggested.
The study found that prime-time television coverage was “heavily weighted towards male sources” and women were only interviewed or cited in 30% of TV news stories and more likely to appear in soft news topics like family, lifestyle and culture.
The researchers also suggest that women had less leisure time and were completing more unpaid work at home, which could also contribute to the gender gap.
“Whatever the reasons, our research shows that globally in the 21st Century those who are most likely to be knowledgeable about politics and current affairs are older men in advanced industrial nations,” Curran said.