Letter to the editor: Where are the women?


  by QW+ staff writer

Letter to the editor: Where are the women?

Quote This Woman+ recently wrote a letter to the editor of the Sunday Times addressing their lack of women+ experts in their budget special. This letter, and the reply appeared in the Sunday Times on 3 March 2024.

We singled out The Sunday Times because of this instance of a 100% gender gap. But we know that all South Africa’s media shares equal responsibility for over-amplifying the opinions and expertise of men. And that when a story is one-sided, not only is deeper understanding lost, but audiences start to lose trust.

Countries across Africa are headed to the polls this year, and we are worried. The media reflects society and when women are left out of news stories, it becomes too easy for other power bases to overlook them too. It is easy for what is important for women to get erased from election manifestos. And to fall off the radar of what people consider if and when they vote.

The good news is that what gets measured, gets changed. As soon as you know how many of your interviews are with men, women or non-binary persons, you can improve your demographic ratios. We therefore urge all editors, journalists and media practitioners to commit to the simple practice of keeping a basic spreadsheet – or a hand-drawn table – to tally interviewees’ demographics. Let this inform your decisions about who to interview next.

Letter to the editor

The paper for the people? Then where are the women?

Last Sunday’s paper (25 February 2024) had a budget special featuring six experts – all men – offering their take on South Africa’s fiscal future. We hunted high and low, but couldn’t find the balancing half dozen op-eds by any of South Africa’s many talented women budget analysts. Which left us stumped.

Because we’re convinced that The Paper of the People knows that the budget affects every citizen. Regardless of gender. And that you can’t exclude the majority gender from your budget coverage. Not without sending a singular message to women: that on matters of national importance, your voices don’t count.

This is important because women and men experience life differently. Women offer different perspectives, often deeply nuanced perspectives that deepen and broaden debates. With this, they enrich the media landscape.

Given South Africa’s difficult history with power and paternalism, this doesn’t sit comfortably with us. It smells much like the stereotype that women can’t do maths. We’d go so far as to say that it affects democratic process. It limits the lens with which audiences read about political economy and social development. And: in an election year. 

News matters. Sunday Times positions its news as hard-hitting and relevant, especially about politics. As election news hots up, Quote This Woman+ has this challenge for the Sunday Times news team: keep a tally of source demographics to mind your gender gap. This way, you can really make your stories matter.

And if you ignore this challenge, society is in for a dangerous situation. Right now, women’s voices are being left out of too many conversations. Most particularly, the ones that will best help us understand the critical choices we face if we’re to usher in a better tomorrow come Election Day. 

Quote This Woman+ is a media and gender non-profit that curates a database of more than 750 women+ experts who can talk on various aspects of news. Together, they’re helping create nuanced media narratives better reflecting all perspectives of society. We invite journalists to log in at www.quotethiswoman.org.za  to access this database. And remind all media: we are here to help.


The Sunday Times recognises the need to reflect diverse viewpoints on matters of importance which form part of the country’s many conversations. We agree that the inclusion of different views, from women as well as men, helps to nourish public debate and ensure that our society is an inclusive one benefiting all citizens. The lack of female commentary in our post-budget analysis last week was indeed an oversight we will endeavour to avert in the future.