Representation of women on the BBC increased during pandemic, says broadcaster

·2-min read

Representation of women on the BBC has increased during the coronavirus pandemic, according to the broadcaster.

As part of its 50:50 Project, the BBC took more than 2,500 snapshots of the gender balance on its programmes, online content and events across a six-month period.

In June to November this year, 2,563 snapshots were taken, with 1,219 reaching the 50% women mark.

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Fran Unsworth, director of news and current affairs at the BBC (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)

In the same period last year, 2,528 snapshots were taken and only 988 reached the 50% mark.

This marked a rise of nine percentage points, from 39% to 48%.

According to the BBC, testimony from content-makers and guests indicated that changing working practices during the pandemic, including greater use of video calling and increased flexibility in terms of timings, helped widen the pool of contributors and contributed to the increase.

Dr Linda Bauld, professor of public health at the University of Edinburgh and a regular contributor on BBC News programmes, said: “The last few months have made it incredibly easy for me, just being able to get on the radio or the TV from 6am onwards in my own home and then deal with the family stuff in the background, and not having to go anywhere, has been absolutely brilliant.

“It’s just made it much more possible for me to fit it in with my family responsibilities as well as my working life. It’s now not unusual for me to do TV or radio interviews before my youngest goes to school in the morning – I’d not been able to easily do that before.”

Fran Unsworth, BBC director of news and current affairs, says: “We’ve all embraced new ways of working this year – and one definite benefit is that we’ve had a wider range of guests on air. I’m determined this should continue as and when life returns to ‘normal’.”

The 50:50 Project, which originated in BBC News, uses data to monitor content and aims to improve representation within the broadcaster.

There are now more than 650 teams taking part in the project across the BBC, monitoring around 800 areas of content, also referred to as a “datasets” or snapshots.

These include the contributors interviewed on a TV or radio programme, images used on a section of the BBC website, animations or BBC talent appearing at an event.

Lara Joannides, the BBC 50:50 Project lead, said: “The determination of BBC colleagues to make change and the conditions created by the pandemic have resulted in a really positive shift, building on the fantastic work already done by teams involved in the 50:50 Project over the last three years.

“We’re confident that while there is still a way to go, we’ll be able to maintain and improve on the figures we’ve seen over the last six months.”

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