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Image: © UN Women via Flickr

New software stops journalists ignoring women

A new piece of software by the Financial Times alerts writers if their article quotes a disproportionate amount of men.

What it means: The business and economics newspaper The Financial Times (FT) recently realised that 79 percent of the people it quotes are men. It decided that wasn’t a good look, so it created a bit of software that analyses the first names and pronouns of articles sources and pings the writer if they seem mostly male. The hope is that it’ll push FT writers to find and use more expert female voices and opinions. (They’re doing something similar with the ethnicity and geographical location of sources.)

Critics of the idea might point out that it’s not surprising the FT quote more men, because men dominate the subjects the FT covers. Around the world, men hold 76 percent of senior business roles. They make up 77 percent of the world’s politicians, and the vast majority of its economists. Women don’t even make up a large proportion of FT readers: just 19 percent are female.

But perhaps women don’t often read the FT because so few women appear in it. According to the FT’s deputy editor, Roula Khalaf, journalists who “use quotes from a high proportion of women… are well read by women”. And if you don’t think there’s business value in the FT increasing the number of people who buy its newspaper by making itself more appealing to half of the population, you need to get with the financial times (see what we did there)?

Plus, women’s voices are often marginalised in the media (and elsewhere) not because there aren’t enough female experts to quote but because societies have been programmed to value women’s intellect less than men (institutionalised sexism, y’all. It’s a thing.) If nudging journalists to check their biases encourages them to give more space to women, the world becomes that little bit more equal: which is good for all of us.

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