Does anything in the news seem more preposterous than a report on abortion where the ‘expert’ being interviewed is a man? Or when a discussion about progressive work places is debated by an allmale panel – or a “manel”? It’s a common problem, since more than 80% of sources quoted in the news are men, even on issues that directly concern women. That’s a global statistic that South Africa mirrors closely.
While most of us just raise our eyebrows in dismay, Kathy Magrobi set out to overthrow that sexist, lazy, or illconsidered reporting by creating Quote This Woman+, a South African database of female experts in subjects ranging from aerospace to xenophobia.
These 500 experts are available for interviews, panel discussions or speaking engagements, and have been vetted to confirm their credentials and given media training to help them give sharp, accurate and interesting comments. It is starting to make a difference, with newsrooms like Daily Maverick and the Mail & Guardian often quoting a female expert in their stories. Foreign publications have also made use of the database, and more than 1000 journalists receive regular updates about its members.
‘Women and men experience life differently, whether they’re a CEO or in a rural area, and if the lived experience of women is left out of the news it’s a real problem,’ Kathy says. ‘When journalists start using Quote This Woman+ they start understanding the different nuances that quoting women brings to their reporting and they really enjoy what they get from it. They’ll often phone us to say, “I’m working on this story – who do you have for me?”’
The plus sign in the NGO’s title is there to include other people whose voices are marginalised through their disability, gender or sexual orientation.
Kathy has been running the initiative full time for three years, but building the database was difficult, because women tend not to put themselves forward.
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