50:50 The Equality Project is committed to inspiring and supporting the BBC and organisations around the globe to consistently create journalism and media content that fairly represents our world. Its goal is to increase the representation of women on media content.
The initiative, born in the BBC’s London newsroom, uses a methodology that is rooted in data, creativity, practicality and passion to fundamentally shift representation within the media.
This is done by using data to effect change. Those involved in 50:50 monitor their output and use their data to help inform their editorial decision making in their aim to reach 50% women contributors on their content over a set period of time (usually a month).
Within the BBC, the 50:50 Project contributes towards the BBC’s responsibility to ensure our content truly reflects our audiences. The Corporation aims to reach 50% women on-screen, on-air and in lead roles across all genres from Drama to Sport to News.
The second 50:50 report shows how 66% of datasets filed by teams for the Challenge month (March 2020) featured 50% women on their content. This is an increase of 9 percentage points on the previous 2019 Challenge Month.
More than 600 BBC teams, which provide content to 35 countries, were signed up to the voluntary initiative by the end of April 2020. In addition, over 60 partner organisations across 20 countries implement 50:50 to also improve the representation of women globally.
The BBC is also currently piloting how the 50:50 methodology can be used to improve under-representation of disability and ethnicity. The targets are tailored for other areas that teams monitor depending on the country and audience of the outlet i.e. in the UK, the BBC aim to reach 15% representation of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic groups on their content.
When 50:50 is satisfied with the methodology and that change is taking place, it will share this with partner organisation to implement.
Together, 50:50 and its partners will be able to shape the media so it better reflects our world.
Over the long-term, the expected impact of 50:50 is equal representation of women on media content that is permanent. Organisations that take part in 50:50 will see their content begin to reflect the world we live in.
Using the BBC as the example, a survey conducted by YouGov of 2,000 people who use any BBC online service found that 39% had noticed a shift towards more women in content than two years ago. In addition, 32% of women aged 25 to 34 say they now consume more BBC online content because of greater female representation.
These statistics are important, as research from the Geena Davis Institute show that the more media represents women better the more likely women will consume that content. This is replicated for any under-served audience.
If the media are not able to attract these audiences then important and vital information cannot be provided. It is something that the BBC and fellow public service broadcasters are acutely aware of with the ongoing coronavirus crisis. Therefore, ensuring media content is representative of society is crucial.
It is not only crucial for public information purposes but also for creating a world of equality. As American children’s rights campaigner Marian Wright Edelman said: ‘You can’t be what you can’t see.’ An example of this was the Women’s Football World Cup in 2019. Its coverage saw a surge in the number of girls wanting to play football.
Role-models are crucial when it comes to inspiring young people and it is the media that shows the next generation what they can be. Therefore, it is vital the media knows whether it is actually doing this. 50:50 provides that data which can help inform the media on how it can adapt and change to reflect society better.
The media now holding itself to account through 50:50 has inspired others to do the same, including global players such as Unilever and PwC joining as partners. The more organisations that come board with 50:50 the more likely media content is to represent the world. The impact of that will be that everyone will be have access to the information and inspiration they need.