Men Outnumber Women by Far in News Photos Posted to Facebook

Pew Research Center studied images from 17 national outlets

In news photos that contained identifiable human faces, 53% showed exclusively men
3dts/iStock

If you look at images posted to Facebook by news organizations, you are far more likely to see men than women, according to a new study from Pew Research Center.

Pew analyzed images posted (publicly) to the social network by 17 national news outlets between April 1 and June 30, 2018, using a computational method it calls machine vision to determine the genders of people who were depicted in them.

Men made up 67% of the 53,067 individuals who were identified in those photos, while women accounted for just 33%.

Pew Research Center

And in news photos that contained identifiable human faces, 53% showed exclusively men, while just 22% were women-only.

Pew said that the ranges of the 17 news outlets it studied in terms of share of individuals identified as women was 25% to 46%.

Size matters, as well, as Pew found that the average male face was 10% larger than the average female face in the images it analyzed.

Finally, Pew broke out certain categories, finding that:

  • In posts about the economy, 69% of images exclusively showed men, compared with 9% for women.
  • In entertainment posts, those numbers were 42% and 27%, respectively.
  • For immigration, it was 55% and 19%, respectively.
  • And for sports, 60% of images exclusively showed men, compared with 17% for women.

Pew cautioned in its study, “While these findings are striking, there is no perfect benchmark or ‘true ratio’ for how often men and women should be portrayed in news images on social media. Yes, the U.S. population is divided nearly in half, male versus female. But, for example, all the representational coverage of professional football teams would return results overwhelmingly dominated by male faces. Coverage of the U.S. Senate—currently 25% female—might do the same. In addition, the analysis did not address whether the content of the news stories that accompanied the images was more focused on men or women.”

And Facebook spokesperson Joe Osborne said, “The study results most likely reflect the gender gap in business, politics, sports and other areas that the media covers. Ultimately, news editors choose which images to include and which stories they post to Facebook.”