Is It Harder For Women To Succeed On YouTube?

Earlier this year, British YouTuber Benjamin Cook's "Becoming YouTube: Girls On YouTube" sparked some controversy--mainly because it ignored the fact that there are hugely successful female YouTubers, such as Grace Helbig, iJustine, Hannah Hart and Jenna Marbles, the second most-subscribed-to creator on YouTube with over 8 million subscribers and 1.1 billion video views. It also left out the voices of some of YouTube's more seasoned and successful female stars, many of whom actually feel empowered by their YouTube fans and tout the advantages of being women on the video site. We'll hear from a couple of these more optimistic female YouTubers shortly, but first - here's a look at some of the biggest issues brought to light in Cook's 'Girls On YouTube' video.

If you take a look at a list of the most-subscribed YouTube channels you’ll notice a trend: nearly all of them are created by, or predominantly feature, men. Currently at youtube.com/charts, a list of “Popular Channels” features smosh, RayWilliamJohnson, nigahiga, PewDiePieHolaSoyGerman, the male-centric machinima and OneDirectionVEVO, while the RihannaVEVO channel is the only nod the video site gives to content starring a female. Why is this?  Does the YouTube audience simply prefer men? Are men creating better content than women? Is it more difficult for girls and women to gain acceptance from viewers than boys and men?

Earlier this year, British YouTuber Benjamin Cook, aka ninebrassmonkeys, explored these questions in “Girls On YouTube,” an episode of his weekly documentary-style YouTube series, “Becoming YouTube.” The episode took an unfiltered look at what some of YouTube’s biggest names, including Hank Green, Charlie McDonnell, Carrie Hope Fletcher, Jack and Dean, Lex Croucher, and Emma Blackery, think about “girls on YouTube.”

“Becoming YouTube: Girls On YouTube” sparked some controversy–mainly because it ignored the fact that there are hugely successful female YouTubers, such as Grace Helbig, iJustine, Hannah Hart and Jenna Marbles, the second most-subscribed-to creator on YouTube with over 8 million subscribers and 1.1 billion video views.  It also left out the voices of some of YouTube’s more seasoned and successful female stars, many of whom actually feel empowered by their YouTube fans and tout the advantages of being women on the video site.

We’ll hear from a couple of these more optimistic female YouTubers shortly, but first – here’s a look at some of the biggest issues brought to light in Cook’s ‘Girls On YouTube’ video.

The demographics are in the guys’ favor.

In “Girls On YouTube,” YouTuber Lex Croucher explains, “It’s about an 80-20 split of girls to boys watching [vlogs on] YouTube and girls, especially 15 year old girls, like to watch boys.”

While YouTube’s demographic breakdown for advertisers and Quantcast demographics show a negligible difference between the number of male and female viewers on the video site, the consensus among the YouTubers in Cook’s video seems to be that a majority of viewers of their vlog-style content are female.  Thirty-year old Cook reports, “82.4 percent of my audience is female…and just over half is aged 13 to 17.”  He says, “This split is typical of a male vlogger’s audience demographic.”

YouTuber’s Jack and Dean attribute this to the fact that girls are simply more prone to the whole fan-girl lifestyle. “Girls obsess over stuff,” says Dean.  Jack adds, “It’s been proven for ages. Look at the Beatles, and now you’ve got One Direction.”  Fair or not, teen girls’ inclination toward fandom, paired with their desire to look at cute boys, is more advantageous to male YouTubers than to female YouTubers.

Emma Blackery says, “Some people just go for looks – they want to see a cute boy on the screen.” It’s different for female creators, explains Blackery. Girls aren’t just watching because you’re nice to look at. “They’re not looking at how attractive you are – they’re seeing if you make good content, if you’re relatable, if you’re funny.”

Society teaches girls that looks matter.

If you turn on your television or open a magazine, odds are you’ll be bombarded with beautiful women.  For our entire lives, we’ve been conditioned to believe that if we are thin and if we are beautiful, people will like us more and we’ll be more successful.

YouTuber Carrie Hope Fletcher says, “In the media in general, there’s definitely more pressure on girls to kind of look a certain way, whereas there’s less pressure on the boys. It’s more nerve-wracking for girls to be on camera because they might not think that they look right for it.”