Pictures in the English Newspapers

While investigating stories in the newspapers for the first blog, I noticed that there was also gender bias in the pictures. I suspected that photos of males were picked to illustrate who was relevant to the story whereas photos of females were chosen for their attractiveness or youth.

I decided to do another investigation into the same newspapers (bought on 13th of April 2010), this time focussing on the photos…

I broke the information down into four observations:

  1. Whether the person in the photo was young or not. I took as ‘young’ anyone under 40.
  2. Whether the person had posed for the photo – ie was still and looking into the camera or clearly lit and positioned for a photo.
  3. If the person was doing a job, dressed in work clothes, holding instruments of work or actually busy doing the work.
  4. Whether the photo featured was a Type A or Type B person:

Type A –Person featured has styled/glossy hair, symmetrical features, which are chiselled if male. A type A person has clear skin, few wrinkles and no facial deformities. Noses, eyebrows, gums and teeth should not be overly prominent – ie no large or hooked noses, no bushy or straggly eyebrows, while lips and eyes should not be unusually small. If physical build is visible then a type A person is slender or/and curvy (if female) and athletically built or tall and slim (if male). A type A image features a person not gurning, ie facial expression is smiling or showing little distortion. A person can also be classified as Type A if the text accompanying the photo refers to the subject as attractive.

Type B –The person in the photo has some physical feature that disallows their inclusion in the Type A category, they may be overweight, have lank, unstyled hair or simply be pulling a face that distorts their features. Eg anyone balding is a type B.

Note: I only used photos that illustrated the stories, not the photos of journalists that appear next to the column they’ve written and not photos in adverts.

The Data

  • In the photos there was an overall bias towards males. 66% of people in photographs of all papers were male and every paper featured more males than females.
  • The biggest gap was in The Independent which had 73% male to 27% female and the smallest gap was the Daily Mail which had 59% to 41% female.
  • On the whole the gap between male and female representation was noticeably smaller than that for stories, perhaps suggesting that women should be more seen than heard.

Percentage of Males and Females in Stories and Pictures

People Working

With job related photos in the red top tabloids there wasn’t much difference, however in the Mail, Express and Metro (M/E/M) there were twice as many men doing work than women and in the broadsheets (The Times, The Independent, The Daily Telegraph, The Guardian) there were six times as many.

Graph to Show Number of Working Males Compared with Working Females

People Posing for the Photograph

Although the differences in the total number of men and women posed in photos were not dramatic enough to be relevant, because there were fewer pictures of females than males, the percentage of females who are posed is nearly twenty percent higher than the percentage of males who are posed.

Graph Showing % of Females Posing and % of Males Posing

Age and Type B

Comparing the total numbers of older and Type B males and females in all the papers there were over three times as many older men (534) as older women (161) and nearly four times as many Type B men (684) as Type B women (182).

Broken down into the three paper types, the broadsheets had the biggest difference.

Showing percentages of all people in photos

Finally, I put all these statistics together to see how many men there are who are older, Type B and unposed compared with the same for women. With this I’m hoping to give an overview of how relevant the looks are of both genders – if it doesn’t matter what a person looks like, only who they are, then the photo is more likely to be unposed and looks and age should be irrelevant.

The Guardian is by far the least biased, with only three times more Type B, unposed, older males than females. The Sun had the biggest difference with only one unposed, older, Type B female and 24 similar males.

Graph to Compare Numbers of Unposed, Type B, Older Males with Females


Graph to Show Number of Working Males Compared with Working Females

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Quick Review of Gender Bias in the Newspapers

It occurred to me after finishing the last investigation that maybe the bias discovered was due to the news that day (April 13th) rather than an ongoing bias in the papers, so I did another brief check in the papers on Monday May the 17th, looking at just the Times and the Daily Mirror.

On the whole the results were similar suggesting that April the thirteenth was not a day when women did a freakishly small amount of work or were particularly uneventful in their behaviour.

There was a rise in the percentage of male subjects overall. On the 17th of May The Times and Mirror combined had 79% male subjects, whereas in the initial investigation on the 13th of April in those two papers 76% of main subject were males.

Comparing job and personal mentions, in which each subject can be referenced for either or both, there were also some differences. The biggest was a ten percent increase in the number of  job mentions for female subjects, although the percentage of personal mentions remained the same (and subsequently the percentage of ‘only personal’ mentions decreased and the percentage of ‘only job’ mentions remained the same.) For the male subjects the biggest change was also an increase in job mentions, this time five percent.

A graph comparing the results of The Times and the Daily Mirror only, from the first investigation and the same from this one. The darker colours are figures from the 17th of May and the lighter colours are from the earlier 13th of April date.

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Is there Gender bias in the English newspapers?

Following an argument in which my opponent refused to accept that there were differences in the way men and women are portrayed in the press, I thought I’d do a little investigating. My suspicion was that men and women were given attention for different reasons – that men got column inches for doing things and affecting the world, whether through inventing, building, rescuing, learning etc, while women were focussed on mostly for their looks, relationships and ability to procreate.

I bought ten newspapers (The Sun, Daily Mirror, Daily Star, Daily Mail, Daily Express, The Times, The Telegraph, The Guardian and The Independent and then picked up The Metro) on one day (Tuesday April 13th 2010) and catalogued all stories noting down the main subjects (people essential to the story), their gender and whether they were in the story for personal or job related reasons. Anyone in the story because they had specialist knowledge or because they had done something outside of their personal lives was marked as ‘job related’.

I did my best to remain subjective and to double check all my figures, but ultimately this was just me, my notebook and my calculator (well, as it happens, it was somebody else’s calculator, thank you somebody else) and there are bound to be flaws. However these flaws tend to be small and should not affect the percentages over all.


  • Total number of subjects in all ten papers       –           2038

Of those:

  • male     –           1590    (78% of total)
  • female –           456      (22%)

The balance of three to one, male to female was pretty consistent throughout the papers, the Mirror had the largest percentage of women (28%) and The Times, The Independent and The Telegraph had the smallest (20%).

  • Total number of male subjects mentioned for work reasons   –       1456   (71% of total)
  • Total number of female subjects mentioned for work reasons   –    283     (14% of total)

So there were five times as many active men as women.

The number of male subjects in the story only for job reasons, without any mention of their personal lives was 1271; the number of women mentioned in this manner was 175.

Numbers of Males and Females in all Papers

The graph below shows what percentage of all men were mentioned for job or personal reasons with the percentages for women, in this it’s easier to see that men are far more likely to appear in an article for their work, achievements or knowledge, whereas women are as likely to appear because they have babies, relationships, health problems or are related to someone who is actually doing something.

Comparison of % Females and % Males Mentioned for Job and Personal Reasons


What is everybody doing?

On the whole the broadsheets had women doing a variety of jobs from charity worker to makeup artist, even the occasional scientist or businesswoman. The tabloids were less varied.

In The Sun, 22 jobs for women were mentioned. Half of them were in the entertainment industry; the rest were: model, topless model, soldier, dominatrix, teacher, bar owner, shareholder and sportswoman.

Of the 90 working men, the jobs were mostly in sports (30), politics (11) or entertainment (27). The rest reads like a list of what boys want to be when they grow up: professional skateboarder, snake hunter, poker ace, soldier, pilot, journalist, criminal, plumber, ambulance worker, academic, writer, horse trainer, policeman and teacher.

In The Mirror there were only 9 female subjects who were in the story solely for job reasons (as opposed to 92 males)

Of those  9:

  • 2 talked about women doing a job badly
  • 2 were about a sex worker
  • 1 was about sportswoman although the story was not in the sport section
  • 1 talked about the subject’s bra
  • 1 described the subject as a ‘pop princess’

The difference between the tabloids and the broadsheets

The tabloids (Sun, Mirror, Star, Express, Mail) had a higher percentage of women in the story for personal reasons, at 74% of all female subjects, whereas the broadsheets (Times, Telegraph, Independent, Guardian) had 47.5%. The tabloids also had a higher percentage of male subjects for personal reasons, at 27.5%, as opposed to the broadsheets’ 13%.

Comparing % of Personal and Job Related Stories for Men and Women in Tabloids

Percentages of Personal and Job Related Stories for Men and Women in Broadsheets

In their own way, the broadsheets were as skewed in their reporting as the tabloids.

In The Independent there were 43 female subjects in total, (20% of the 218 subjects), but 21 of those were contained in the Life section and excluding that section, only 11% of all subjects were female.

The Guardian contained 54 stories in National and International news; out of those, only three contained more female subjects than male subjects (39 of the 54 contained more male subjects than female).

Male to Female Ratios in Each Story

Of those three stories with more women:

  • One was about members of ‘Team Brown’ wearing pink –Tessa Jowell, Ellie Gellard (a blogger) Yvette Cooper and Gordon Brown.
  • One asked for the personal opinions about the election of members of the public and asked three women and one man.
  • One was an observation of election leaders’ wives talking about whether they had a pedicure or wore a seatbelt.


There was a surprising lack of women in the sports pages of all papers.

Across all ten papers there were 4 sportswomen mentioned (strictly speaking, it was five – including the one in the TV section of The Mirror.)

Although most sports stories appeared in all papers, those four sportswomen appeared in one paper each – in The Telegraph a swimmer and a horse rider, in The Guardian a racing driver (although reference was made to the fact that she appeared in a swimming costume in photos) and one rowed.

So out of the 586 central people in the sports pages of all ten papers, 22 were females and of those 22, four were actually sportswomen, 0.6% of the total.

Comparison of numbers of Men and Women in the Sports’ Pages of all Papers

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