According to QW+ founder, Kathy Magrobi,  “Research shows that men will be quoted in the news four times for every single occasion that a women’s voice is heard. You’d think that our country has a serious lack of women academics, leaders, and politicians, but that’s not true. Articulate, intelligent and quotable women experts exist in droves, but their voices are simply not being heard. This has significant implications: not only for gender parity, but for how we perceive our world.”

QW+ this week signed its one-hundredth woman expert, and the non-profit continues to verify additional experts on a regular basis. “The women on our database are wonders. We have newsmakers, changemakers, agitators and experts from business, universities, and civil society: women for whom the time has come to be seen and be heard. Many of our experts are fed up with being overlooked because they are judged because of their gender in terms of their  intelligence, and where they are supposed to fit into society. Some admit that up until now, they have found it difficult to promote themselves to the media, fearing scorn from colleagues who are used to being quoted, as well as online harassment and abuse. They are drawn to QW+ as a platform that offers a safe environment for building a media profile.”

Magrobi says that many South African journalists and media houses are aware that they quote more men than women, but find it harder than imagined to close the gender gap. 

“It’s well known that newsrooms today have fewer journalists responsible for more news across multiple platforms, facing deadlines that happen at the speed of Facebook posts and Twitter tweets. The pressure to get a snappy soundbite from an established expert is intense. Too often this means that they fall back on the sources they are familiar with and who they are confident will take their calls and go out on a limb to say something newsworthy, and too often those sources are men.”

Given that one of the stumbling blocks to women gaining media expert status is that they generally receive less mentoring, and are less likely to be invited to share the centre-stage early on in their careers, the non-profit is looking to fund media and social-media training for its experts, and to set up a mentoring programme between women who already have a media presence, and those who don’t. 

Says Magrobi, “Our aim is to empower women as news sources, and beyond that to connect them to power through our network of women with strong media profiles, and our network of newsrooms and journalists. Further, we lobby media oversight bodies, media houses, journalists and producers to use our database and to give us feedback regarding what works for them, and how we can improve what we do.  We would also like to get funding so that we can curate our own news stories that amplify women’s voices, and we’d love to get some of our media awards programmes to create a category that seeks out best practise in getting women seen and heard in the news.

“This phenomenon is not limited to South Africa – research shows that the one-on five bias against women is pretty consistent the world over. In the USA, they talk about the phenomenon of the Marticle, the all-male-sourced article, which is kissing cousin to the Manel, the panel of experts that only features men. The good news is that not only do we already have one hundred women experts who reporters can access for quotes, but we’re working with reporters who by and large have realised the precariousness of journalism that does not amplify the voices of 51% of the country.”Quote This Woman+ welcomes experts in all fields who are either women, or non-binary, or who represent other minorities. Experts can join via www.quotethiswoman.org.za or by emailing info@quotethiswoman.org.za to find out more.