The number of podcasts has boomed, especially since the start of the pandemic when many people found themselves with more time to spare on their hands or even lacking an extra activity, no longer possible due to the worldwide health crisis. According to the Podcast Index at the time of writing, there are 4,069,731 podcasts, however only 662,445 have been active within the last 90 days. This is a clue that making a podcast is generally not easy. Is it even harder to be a woman in this industry?
Let’s start by analysing the distribution of monthly podcast consumerism in the USA in 2021, published recently by Statista Research Department: 56% male, 41% female and 3% non-binary/other. Although numbers are pretty close, women still lag behind men when it comes to listening. Don’t be fooled by this difference, because another interesting study, Edison Research, has shown that women listen to roughly the same average of podcasts per week as men; they listen to 76% of podcasts downloaded, about the same as men 77%. Women are more likely to say they listened to more podcasts than last year: 45% of women in comparison with 39% of men.
So we can say that the female audience is pretty strong and the need for more female hosts, producers, editors is quite obvious since they can appeal to their audience by being more relatable. That doesn’t mean, of course, women should only listen to female hosts or vice versa, but there are many subjects to explore, lots of potential for having a voice or raising certain subjects from a woman’s perspective.
Nevertheless, when we look at data related to the female presence as podcast hosts, numbers are not encouraging. In 2017, only about a third of top 100 podcasts on Apple were hosted or co-hosted by women (according to WNYC Studios) and 2018 only 22% of hosts women. There are some potential explanations for this.
Firstly, as a new type of media, keeping the same tendencies as the broadcasting environment, podcasts have been white, male dominated since the concept first appeared. Studies show that the audience associates women with higher pitch voices, hence more submissive, somewhat helpful, compared to more authoritarian lower pitch voices a lot of people prefer, which naturally makes it a bias that limits women’s opportunity of being heard. Another reason could be lack of trust in ability to make podcasts, which may be relevant for both men and women, but more likely to occur to women. Another factor that may extend to many industries, is when they were girls, many women were encouraged to do more ‘girly’ activities or studies which resulted in lacking interest in more ‘techy’ aspects making a podcast can entail. That doesn’t imply lack of ability; there is need for a change in the attitude toward girls.
The good thing is that there are programmes meant to especially encourage women to grow in the world of podcasting, for instance from Spotify and Google; there is an annual festival for women in podcasting called Werk It! organised by WNYC; women own studios like Motor City Woman Studios; there is a Global Women Podcast Editor Panel, which I’ve been a guest on, inviting and encouraging women who edit their own podcasts; there are Facebook groups like Just Busters: Female Podcast Editors, also many other resources and support groups. There are also strong voices of powerful women with own podcasts, which opens doors for many others.
So, if you are a woman reading this, believe in yourself, be yourself, keep going and achieve whatever you set your mind to.
Featured image by Gratisography on Pexels.