Podcast Boys Club: Only 21% of Top-Charting Shows Have a Female Host (Exclusive)

TheWrap Special Report: Of 109 shows surveyed over a 31-day period across four podcast networks, only 23 were hosted by women

Women represent roughly half of podcast listeners nationwide, but an overwhelming majority of the top-charting shows across the four major podcast platforms are hosted by men. In fact, men hosted or co-hosted 79% of the most-downloaded or listened-to podcasts over the last month, according to an analysis by TheWrap.

Spotify had the most female-hosted shows on its top 20 list — 28% — during the 31 straight days in June and July analyzed by TheWrap. Meanwhile, women hosted 17% of Stitcher’s top podcasts and 23% of those on Apple Podcasts. The percentage fell to just 6% of the top shows on Google Podcasts, which ranks only its top 12 shows, by downloads. (Stitcher and Spotify rank the top shows by downloads, while Apple’s algorithm analyzes several factors, including consumption, to create its charts.)

Overall, women hosted just 23 of the 109 podcasts that appeared on any of the four charts in the month we analyzed, while 15 podcasts had a male and female co-host.

The only woman-led show to appear on each of the four charts surveyed was “Office Ladies,” hosted by former “The Office” actresses Jenna Fischer and Angela Kinsey. Several shows with female hosts hit No. 1 on one of the podcast charts during the 31 days surveyed, including “1619,” hosted by Nikole Hannah-Jones and produced by the New York Times, which topped the Apple Podcast rankings for six days in June, reflecting a renewed interest in the show’s main topics of racial relations in the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests over the killing of George Floyd.

“Call Her Daddy,” a sex advice show hosted by Alexandra Cooper and produced by Barstool Sports, made the Spotify and Apple top 20 lists every day surveyed. The show topped the Spotify rankings three times in early June when Cooper very publicly cut ties with her former co-host Sofia Franklyn and began to host the show solo. “Call Her Daddy” also topped the Apple Podcasts list three times.

“Park Predators,” a true-crime podcast created and hosted by Ashley Flowers, topped the Apple Podcasts rankings on July 8, the day after it launched its first episode. Flowers’ other true-crime podcast, “Crime Junkie,” made both Stitcher and Apple Podcasts’ top 20 list every day surveyed.

While these female-led shows did stand out, Joe Rogan dominated all the podcast charts. The only show that regularly hit No. 1 every day surveyed was Rogan’s interview show “The Joe Rogan Experience.” While it previously wasn’t available on Spotify, Rogan’s chart-topping talk show will join the platform by Sept. 1 and be available exclusively on the service by the end of this year. Rogan’s new $100 million deal is significant enough for him to agree to giving up broadcasting and monetizing full episodes on YouTube, his main platform.

The gender disparity stands in contrast to the demographics of podcast listenership, which is evenly split between genders, according to the 2020 Infinite Dial digital media survey by Edison Research released in March.

Overall, podcast listenership is also on the rise. According to research firm Statista, 88 million people in the U.S. listened to podcasts on a monthly basis in 2019, up from 75 million the year prior. Statista’s October report estimated that count would grow to 120 million by the end of 2021, an “annual growth rate between 2019 and 2023 pegged at 17%.”

Podcast host and producer Kristen Meinzer, who co-hosts the podcast “By the Book” with Jolenta Greenberg, attributed the lack of female-dominated shows to the fact that most criticism of podcasts is done by male listeners.

“There are more podcasts hosted by men. There are more podcast critics, I’m presuming, because most media critics are men,” Meinzer told TheWrap. “If all of these shows are getting the notoriety and elevation of media critics who are mostly men, and most of the hosts are men — a lot of audience building is because of cross-promotion.”

The gender disparity in hosts for popular podcasts may be surprising since women are often more engaged with their favorite shows than male listeners, according to Michael Bosstick, who co-founded (with Raina Penchansky) the female-focused podcast network Dear Media.

“This is an extremely engaged demographic,” Bosstick said. “From a consumer standpoint, high engagement and high purchasing and high listener (counts). From a talent standpoint, there’s amazing talent that has built what I would say is some of the strongest communities on digital platforms.”

This is the first part of a two-part look at male dominance of podcasts. On Tuesday: Why Female Podcast Hosts Struggle to Crack the Top 20 Charts.

Samson Amore

Samson Amore

Technology and gaming reporter • samson.amore@thewrap.com • Twitter: @Samsonamore


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