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Female Opinion Writers Better Represented Online Than in Print Publications

Representation of women in the op-ed pages of The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times and The Wall Street Journal is on the rise

When it comes to opinion writing, it is still a man's world. 

But things are improving slightly for female reporters and writers, a new study by The OpEd Project found this week. 

In particular, female opinion writers are much better represented online than they are in legacy publications, with females responsible for 33 percent of the opinion pieces in digital publications surveyed by the report's authors as opposed to 20 percent of those in several major newspapers. 

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Giving hope for the future, college publications boasted the best numbers, with women responsible for 38 percent of opinion pieces. 

To come up with its numbers, the OpEd Project evaluated over 7,000 articles in 10 media outlets over a 12-week period from Sept. 15, 2011 to Dec. 7, 2011.  Among the publications it chose to examine were online titles like Salon and The Huffington Post; traditional outlets like The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal; and college papers at Ivy League schools like Yale and Harvard. 

Though legacy publications lag behind digital ones when it comes to gender representation, things are getting more diverse. The report's authors compared their calculations to earlier numbers from The Daily Beast's Howard Kurtz and The Los Angeles Times' James Rainey and found marked improvement. 

At The New York Times, the number of opinion pieces written by women jumped from 17 percent in 2005 to 22 percent in 2011; at The Wall Street Journal that number rose from 10 percent to 19 percent, while at The Los Angeles Times it increased from 20 percent to 24 percent.

Some biases are harder to shake, however. The report found that women are more likely to write about what it dubs "pink" topics like fashion and food and less about hard news topics in education and politics.

In new media outlets, thirty four percent of the stories women wrote about were on "pink" topics, while a lowly eight percent of those fluffier stories were written by men. When it came to traditional media, 12.4 percent of female writers' bylines were affixed to "pink" stories, while 3 percent of male reporters churned out stories on lifestyle topics.