Maybe there are just more male experts about?

Male experts still outnumber female experts on the main TV news bulletins by more than three to one, a study has found, despite a campaign to improve the number of women on screen.

Howell welcomed the overall improvement in the gender balance of experts. However, she said: “Women are still not being used enough by flagship shows in this country and it is clear that more work needs to be done.”

Allow me to do some mansplainin’.

How many male experts are there out there compared to female? And here expert does not mean “gobby with an opinion” nor even “fake think tanker with a tale to sell”. It means “someone expert in the subject under discussion”.

If you don’t know the composition of the underlying base then you don’t know whether there is under or even over representation of women, do you?

And given that a usual complaint is that men vastly outnumber women at the top of the various professions and sciences, which is where we’re likely to find those we call experts, shouldn’t we actually expect there to be more men doing this?

41 thoughts on “Maybe there are just more male experts about?”

  1. So Much For Subtlety

    Or perhaps, being an expert requires you to be a little obsessive. As the other Baron-Cohen says, men are more likely to be autistic and have IQs. That is, be the sort of person that makes a good expert.

    Someone just needs to tell these people to get a life.

  2. Or perhaps, being an expert requires you to be a little obsessive.

    You see that even at hobbyist level, way below that of professional, let alone expert. One of my colleagues in the office here has a weird hobby, that of building high-end amplifiers using the old glass valves from the 1930s. He saw one once, thought it looked cool, and taught himself to make them. Now his house is littered with them, and he’s forever fiddling with them.

    Another anecdote: I’m into bluegrass music in a slightly obsessive way, to the point I taught myself the guitar so I could play and sing it. When I came to Paris I found a bluegrass club, with about 20-30 members, all French, who learned in adulthood to play banjos, fiddles, guitars, mandolins, etc. in a bluegrass style. Have a guess how many of the members are women? Zero. All men.

    I have three colleagues here who are female, all engineers. Good engineers too, as good as any of the blokes. When you speak to them about their spare time, it is mainly running a household, dealing with kids, and dabbling in hobbies such as tennis, the piano, etc. to a degree where they simply enjoy it as a distraction. None of them is devoting 2-3 hours per night to building bloody amplifiers or singing songs with such titles as “Little Cabin Home on the Hill”.

    I’m sure my experience is, in general, replicated across the whole world.

  3. Is this relevant?
    The basic premise is affirmative action. so no need to be very expert. Plus where are the ethnics , the disabled, ,there should be non English speakers as well.
    As well this affirmative action should be compulsory broad spectrum.
    That is in all forms of media , entertainment etc.

  4. Tim N:

    Absolutely. Men I know are obsessive about (amongst other things) building and flying model planes, collecting football programmes, collecting fossils, repairing old bikes, visiting every football and rugby ground in the UK, as well as the more “normal” habit of buying room-fills of books, vinyl and CDs.

    My wife still makes occasional noises about clearing out/selling my music collection, using the unarguable logic that I have everything copied to iTunes and I only ever listen to about 5% of it at most. She just doesn’t understand that it’s important to *have* the collection.

    Also, huge respect for learning an instrument as an adult. I’ve had a vague desire to do the same but know I would be too lazy to actually spend the time doing it.

  5. Practicalities matter too. Quite a few woman have a morning routine which involves getting the kids out of bed, feeding them, and taking them to school; before heading to work. Nipping into central London studios for an interview is a pain.

  6. So Much For Subtlety

    Tim Newman – “One of my colleagues in the office here has a weird hobby, that of building high-end amplifiers using the old glass valves from the 1930s.”

    I believe the Leader of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition photographs manhole covers. Suddenly “weird” has taken on a whole new meaning that leaves most of us in its wake.

    “Another anecdote: I’m into bluegrass music in a slightly obsessive way, …. Have a guess how many of the members are women? Zero. All men.”

    Well clearly you are creating a hostile environment for women and you all need some re-education in gender sensitivity. Only then will women feel safe to leave the home for a ho down. Well, some women. Some other women have no problems leaving the home, drinking too much cider and thinking “ho down” is an aspiration.

    “I’m sure my experience is, in general, replicated across the whole world.”

    Men and women are fundamentally different. There is no sane reason to deny the evidence. The science is, to coin a phrase, settled. But we are committed to fighting reality.

  7. If I want to know how to apply sticky back plastic to a few bog rolls to make a supposed but actually unrecognisable facsimile of a sausage dog, I would expect a woman expert to advise me. For most other situations, I would expect the expert to be, on balance, a man, although in law and medicine this is reaching a tipping point.

  8. I’ve had a vague desire to do the same but know I would be too lazy to actually spend the time doing it.

    Two things:

    1) A year-long assignment in Kuwait.
    2) A three-year assignment in Nigeria.

    🙂

  9. Well clearly you are creating a hostile environment for women and you all need some re-education in gender sensitivity.

    Actually, we have had three women turn up, all French. One was a young lady who couldn’t play guitar very well and only showed up a handful of times (the group isn’t very welcoming for beginners…or anybody else, for that matter. Odd folk, the French). Another was a middle-aged woman who was pretty good on the fiddle, only saw her once.

    The last one I remember. She stormed into the middle of the group when we were bang in the middle of a foot-stomping rendition of Oh, dem Golden Slippers and kicked off with the stand-in club president. A huge row ensued where it transpired the club president had banned her some months or years back for being a trouble-maker. The argument went on for about an hour, totally destroying our session, after which security asked her to leave and threatened to call the police. She left shouting that “she has a right to play bluegrass music” with us. It was possibly the most bizarre incident I’ve ever witnessed.

  10. My yardstick for demonstrating the differences between men and women is to ask 10 of each sex to wrap a Christmas present. If you really want to see a stark demonstration, make the present a jumper or pair of socks.

  11. So Much For Subtlety

    dearieme – “Some males are so obsessive that they hang about on websites, agreeing compulsively with the blogger.”

    But not me. I just pass through while engaged in my one true obsessive behaviour – surfing the internet for girl-on-girl action dressed as squirrels. It is amazing what women don’t understand. I put it to lower development of their frontal cortex.

  12. My present wrapping is awesome and noted as so by the family since my childhood. I’m not sure what this proves or disproves. It probably was helped by a childhood fascination with origami.

    Of course as others including the redoubtable[1] Tim Newman have pointed out, males do obsessive things more than women, and thus tend to gain expertise, and as a rule women find these things- whether amplifiers or computers or origami- absolutely baffling. Women tend to be outcomes focussed. Once you have a computer that can produce an outcome she desires, she’ll use it. But she won’t be interested in obsessing about making it do the useful thing, let alone fiddling with computers before they could do anything useful at all, as with my generation. I can still write Z80 assembler. I did some coding for the ZX81 recently, just for the joy of it. Women just do not seem to do this kind of thing.

    Look around internet forums for programming, vintage radios, or even stuff like 3D graphics (I’m currently obsessing with Blender again) and it’s nearly all men. Some women, but mostly men. Not because as the Feminists like to claim they are hostile to women or mysoginist or that nonsense, women just are not interested, generally.

    There is a good argument that this makes women, in general, more practical. But society benefits a great deal in technological innovation as a by-product of the useless things men fascinate ourselves with- and which we frequently do despite overt hostility to it from the women in our lives.

    [1] I really must look up what this word means some time.

  13. SMFS – surfing the internet for girl-on-girl action dressed as squirrels.

    Are they dressed as squirrels, or are you dressed as squirrels, or both?

  14. The authors obviously never watch BBC4. Plenty of female experts on there – Alice Roberts, Lucy Worsley, Bettany Hughes, Janina Ramirez, and most recently Helen Czerski. True, they are all have attractive personalities and looks, but they are all experts in their fields rather than presenter bimbos. Then there are Mary Beard and Sister Wendy. Chosen for the ‘eccentric’ persona perhaps but experts all the same.

  15. I agree that men are more obsessive than women – at least about devices, sports and collecting. Yet women can be extremely obsessive, too — about details: the details of what to eat, how clean things are, how presents are wrapped, and any of the dozens of little anxieties to which the female mind is prone.

  16. I think that there’s some good reasoning behind the male/autist points here. It may also be the case that the relative paucity of. Top level women also feeds this.

    Equally, it could be the case that women don’t feel the same desire to get on telly and broadcast their knowledge like blokes do. Testosterone-fuelled ego’s are often decried as being the source of many ills by the feminists. It is possible that this is one of the downsides of not being testosterone fuelled and egotistical.

  17. Bloke in North Dorset

    You’re all missing the point, its not about inputs its about outcomes. If there are 99 male and 1 female experts on a specific subject then she will be called on 50% of the time (or whatever the current population distribution is) and if she is needed because the equation is getting out of balance and isn’t available because she’s painting her toe nails, then no experts shall be used.

    And its no use claiming that they use more females when looking for experts on, say, toe nail painting, as the requirement for gender balance doesn’t run the other way.

  18. @BiND “You’re all missing the point, its not about inputs its about outcomes. If there are 99 male and 1 female experts on a specific subject then she will be called on 50% of the time”

    The same sort of principle that works in the Murphaloons favour. 99 tax experts and 99 economists all say the same thing so the Murphaloon is called in for ‘balance’ being the only person saying something different.

  19. I actually find Corbyn more interesting because of his hobby. On my trips to London I’ve begun to be fascinated by the number and variety of man hole covers, which seem to change not just according to utility but also by date of installation…

  20. One of my friends posted a link to this article on alleged gender inequality in the Australian workplace, specifically the pyramid showing the “shocking” under representation of women in senior positions. I left the following comment:

    “I don’t know why it puts anyone to shame. To get to be a CEO or Executive Manager you need to put in 80-hour weeks and surrender 90% of your personal life for a decade or more. Men are motivated to do this largely because the money they earn provides a nice lifestyle for their wives and children, and they accept the improved prospects of their family as the trade-off for the increased stress and longer hours. If women want to make the same trade-off then they should be able to (and they clearly do, because of 15.4% and 29.3% figures), but it shouldn’t come as a surprise to find most women would rather spend time with their children than be putting in 80-hour weeks in the office…and for what? Most men don’t kill themselves in the office for the prestige, they do it for their families. Unless women are also doing it for their families, it’s hard to see why they would want to put themselves through this.”

  21. Didn’t the murphaloon once have a meltdown when he was the male expert passed over for a female, so maybe not a bad idea after all.

    As for manhole covers, lot of history from when small local foundries were around and often included their name on the covers, dates, etc. Given the longevity of them it can be quite interesting to see the history of an area.

  22. So Much For Subtlety

    Ian B – “Of course as others including the redoubtable[1] Tim Newman have pointed out, males do obsessive things more than women”

    Is it obsessive and testosterone-fuelled to point out that actually it was the very first comment? I hope not. On the other hand I think the other advantage of being an expert is the groupies. I am sure TW has some by now. So I want my credit dammit!

    Steve – “Are they dressed as squirrels, or are you dressed as squirrels, or both?”

    Well them. I mean some stains are just too hard to get out of suede.

    Tractor Gent – “True, they are all have attractive personalities and looks, but they are all experts in their fields rather than presenter bimbos. Then there are Mary Beard and Sister Wendy.”

    Who are presenter bimbos?

    GlenDorran – “What about the squirrel-curious?”

    It is a broad church that welcomes all sorts.

  23. So Much For Subtlety

    Tim Newman – “Men are motivated to do this largely because the money they earn provides a nice lifestyle for their wives and children, and they accept the improved prospects of their family as the trade-off for the increased stress and longer hours.”

    Why Men Are Idiots: Part XXIV

    Women should be careful what they wish for. We can see what happens when men stop killing themselves for the indifferent dinners and rare sex that is modern marriage – look at Black America.

  24. Bloke in Costa Rica

    Point of order, SMFS: it is a hoedown, or possibly even a hootenanny to which you refer. A ho down is a different sort of affair entirely and involves much less banjo and much more twerking.

    I’m really fairly low on the obsessiveness spectrum for someone in my line of work (which still means I’m probably pretty weird by normal standards). I don’t know anything about superheros or Star Trek characters other than that gleaned through casual watching, for example. I’m not really much of a completist when it comes to music or collecting things. But I do have the ability to focus very, very intensely on a single task to the extent that I get tunnel vision. I was working on debugging a piece of code a while back and an old friend I hadn’t seen in years popped into the office. He was sitting next to me chatting to someone else for half an hour and I didn’t even notice. That’s a guy thing, mostly. I also have an extremely good memory for fine detail, which means I can sit down at a computer and recall things like configuration settings without much effort. I can still remember the IP address of a Unix workstation cluster server I used in 1995, for example. Women tend not to do that, not necessarily because they cannot, but because they seldom see the need. I’m terrible at remembering large chunks of poetry, on the other hand. The only poem of any substance I can recite from memory is On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer, and that’s only 14 lines long (well, it is a sonnet).

  25. Trying to force it has gotten ridiculous in the U.S.

    Network TV coverage of football, NFL and college, now always has a woman* reporter on the sidelines. Most all are obvious tokens reading scripts. The idea is allegedly to get more women interested in football. It is an insult to women. They think women are stupid, don’t recognize tokens, and are more interested in having their sex represented than in hearing from people who know the game.

    Really, when Michele Tafoya comes on my screen, I ask my TV, “Why is she on my screen?” . . . and hit fast forward. She has a bit of swagger, like she actually matters.

    *One exception: Tony Siragusa. Who has actually played football. That said, Suzie Kolber did a good job with sideline analysis, but got kicked upstairs. Laura Oakmin is the only one who does a good job now. The rest are a PC/affirmative action joke.

  26. Interested
    Manhole covers might suddenly become very interesting if you accidentally put one deigned for pavements in the middle of a busy road. Corbyn’s hobby coul have some upsides, you see.

    Anyway, if I was to choose a dinner date with an anon and had his choice of “football” or “manhole covers” with no other information I know which I’d choose.

  27. “To get to be a CEO or Executive Manager you need to put in 80-hour weeks and surrender 90% of your personal life for a decade or more. Men are motivated to do this largely because the money they earn provides a nice lifestyle for their wives and children, and they accept the improved prospects of their family as the trade-off for the increased stress and longer hours…Most men don’t kill themselves in the office for the prestige, they do it for their families…”

    Up to a point. There’s a level of success beyond which the extra millions are nice to have, but your wife, if she loves you, and your children, who do love you, would rather you spent the time with them. Then the guys who are putting in 80-hour weeks to get to the next level are doing it for themselves, not for their families.

  28. Gamecock

    In the UK part of the problem is that the format of the TV sports broadcasts means that in-depth informed analysis doesn’t really happen, and hasn’t for many years.

    Therefore having a good looking woman versus an ugly grizzled old sportsman on doesn’t actually make a difference to the quality of analysis.

    It’s not that women aren’t capable of doing it. I saw an extended online discussion between Lyndsey Davenport, Martina Navratilova and Pam Shriver about men’s tennis which was fascinating, insightful and informed. It would never appear on TV because the BBC thinks that a comment along the lines of “Murray must dig deep here” constitutes analysis.

  29. I’ve got no problem having a good looking woman WHO KNOWS SOMETHING ABOUT FOOTBALL giving a sideline report. I’ve got a problem with someone like Erin Andrews reading a script. It’s patronizing.

  30. Up to a point. There’s a level of success beyond which the extra millions are nice to have, but your wife, if she loves you, and your children, who do love you, would rather you spent the time with them. Then the guys who are putting in 80-hour weeks to get to the next level are doing it for themselves, not for their families.

    Yes, I quite agree.

  31. @ SJW
    Yes, I agree.
    As an employee I worked a lot more hours when I was a bachelor than after I got married (albeit my wife complained about those).

  32. “…the indifferent dinners and rare sex that is modern marriage…”

    No doubt there are some men who are unable to cook a good dinner, and whose wives don’t much fancy sex with them. Plausibly, such men are disproportionately represented on the nutjob websites whence some commentators get their information. But it’s wrong to assume that everyone else is the same as you.

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