A British study showed that as women television hosts age, they are increasingly pushed off screen. The study, which looked at BBC, Sky, ITN and Channel 5, tallied that out of 481 presenters at all the networks only 26 women over 50 are regularly on screen.
Of presenters over 50, just 18% are women. This group makes up just 5% of presenters of all ages and sexes and 7% of the total workforce both on and off screen.
While there are regularly 188 women on screen, making up 39% of that workforce, the majority of them are under 50. These statistics cover shows ranging from morning news to primetime news programming.
Many of the channels have a history with ageism–both the BBC and Channel 5 have had several lawsuits from former women presenters who said they were edged out because of their age. Selina Scott, formerly of Channel 5, sued the network for ageism at 57 in 2008 and won.
Harriet Harman, the Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, commented on the statistics.
The figures provided by broadcasters show clearly that once female presenters hit 50, their days on-screen are numbered. There is a combination of ageism and sexism that hits women on TV that doesn’t apply to men in the same way.
Harman also called out the ageism and sexism that permeate television.
When it comes to men, they can get better with age – their grey hair denotes wisdom, experience authority. But for women they get worse with age. They have to start looking younger and younger, many, many years below their age. And then when they get to about 50 somehow the viewers need to be protected from them, and I don’t think that that is acceptable.
It’s not acceptable. This study and Harman’s statements alongside commentary from many others are leading senior executives to meet with the Older Women’s Commission to discuss the problem. Let’s hope it helps to change those statistics.