Does CNN Have a Woman Problem? Network Lags Behind Fox News, MSNBC in On-Air Talent

CNN has half as many solo female hosts as its competitors — and none in primetime

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CNN has significantly fewer women serving in visible on-air roles than either Fox News or MSNBC, according to an analysis of weekday programming by TheWrap.

In fact, the Time Warner-owned network has half as many female solo anchors on weekdays as its cable news competitors — three compared to six each for Fox News and MSNBC — and none during the highly visible primetime hours from 8 p.m to 11 p.m.

This contrasts sharply with MSNBC, which boasts primetime powerhouse Rachel Maddow, and Fox News, where conservative fire-breather Laura Ingraham basically replaced Megyn Kelly in Fox News’ lineup last fall.

In total weekday hours for women, Fox News emerged as the cable news leader with 15 hours of coverage featuring women as either anchors or co-anchors. CNN and MSNBC each broadcast 11 hours with at least one female co-host.

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A look at weekday coverage between 4 a.m. and midnight on all three channels revealed that CNN has just three women serving in solo anchoring roles: Kate Bolduan, Brooke Baldwin and Erin Burnett. (For the purposes of the analysis, TheWrap ignored the first four hours of the broadcast day, from midnight to 4 a.m., since all three networks typically air reruns of earlier broadcasts at that time.)

“The fact that CNN has the worst female representation is especially condemning considering the profound mediocrity they are willing to accept from male contributors,” Teen Vogue columnist Lauren Duca told TheWrap.

“Women are grossly underrepresented across all the major networks, leading to a diminishment of the female perspective, if not outright sexism,” she said. “Until women comprise 50 percent of both hosts and on-air guests, Fox, CNN and MSNBC have no right claiming to accurately depict the national conversation.” (TheWrap’s analysis did not include an assessment of the gender breakdown of on-air guests.)

A spokesperson for CNN and Fox News declined to comment for this story; MSNBC did not respond to requests for comment.

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A senior CNN employee, however, told TheWrap that the channel had better gender representation than the data would suggest, but that there was definitely more work to be done.

“Do women need to be better represented as show hosts? Absolutely,” the individual said. “I think that women should be better represented on CNN and probably all the networks.

“MSNBC is doing well on female representation on air,” the employee added.

All three news networks tended to have more women on air during the less visible weekend hours. Fox News has weekend shows hosted by Judge Jeanine Pirro, Maria Bartiromo and Julie Banderas. For MSNBC, Joy Reid, Alex Witt, and Yasmin Vossoughian anchor shows. And CNN has Fredricka Whitfield and Ana Cabrera.

As the MeToo movement brings women’s visibility and empowerment to the forefront of the national conversation, many media companies have attempted to meet the challenge by increasing the visibility of female talent.

After Matt Lauer’s ouster from the “Today” show, his co-host Savannah Guthrie was joined by a newly promoted Hoda Kotb.

The program’s longtime executive producer, Don Nash, also stepped aside last week in favor of Libby Leist, who is now the first woman to lead the show during its 7 and 8 a.m. ET hours.