Daily Archives: December 17, 2015

Hearing women on Q & A

I see that the report has been published into political bias on the ABC’s program Q & A. It found that, despite assertions to the contrary by right-wing politicians and commentators,  it was not a “lefty lynch mob”.  However,

“The representation and participation of females on Q&A panels was significantly below that of their male counterparts,” the report said. “There were fewer female panellists and those that were selected were asked fewer questions and permitted far less time to speak.

“There were fewer female panellists in total (46% female to 54% male). This was due mainly to the under-representation of women selected to appear on behalf of the coalition government. Only 11% of coalition panellists appearing in programs where they were matched against representatives of the opposition were women.”

One of the most egregious examples of the disrespect shown to women occurred when Christopher Pyne, Lindsay Tanner and Piers Akerman completely dominated the QandA episode where Kate Ellis joined them on the panel.  I’ve written about it before, and just to remind you- here’s some of it:

Chrys Stevenson who writes at Gladly, the Cross-Eyed Bear (great title!) was so incensed that she analysed the interchanges closely. Although the word count total did not differ markedly between the four panelists, the prevalence of interruption when Ellis was speaking was astounding:

Ellis’s heroic 1,962 words were interrupted 36 times during the course of the program – that’s once every 55 words and more than once every two minutes.

The major offender was Christopher Pyne who butted in to Ellis’ conversations an incredible 21 times – an average of one interruption for every three minutes of air time. And that was just against Ellis!

In all, serial offender Pyne interrupted other speakers, including Jones, a total of 34 times. Compare this with Catherine Deveny who drew the wrath of the Twitterverse and a misogynistic media upon her head by interrupting just four times during the course of a program. Where are the newspaper editorials about Pyne’s performance?

Tanner and Akerman made 11 interruptions each. Like Pyne, their major target was Ellis – 5 interruptions from Tanner and 6 from Akerman. Jones interrupted the Minister for Employment four times, the most notable when she opened her mouth to answer a question from an audience member and before she had a chance to speak, Jones said, “We’ll take that as a comment” and directed the next question to her nemesis, Christopher Pyne!

She has provided transcriptions of some of the interchanges- head over and read them!

I listen to a lot of podcasts that have been recorded at conferences and writers’ festivals, where there is often a question-and-answer session at the end. It’s striking how many of the sessions are dominated by men. You often see it in action: “any questions?” they ask and up shoot the men’s hands.  There may be women’s hands up, but somehow they’re just not seen by the chair.  Even in sessions where you can see, or suspect, that the audience is predominantly female, men’s questions dominate question time.

I like it when the chair announces in advance that questions will be taken alternately between men and women.  Yes, there might be an embarrassing silence, but then the questions do come, and possibly the better for a few second’s reflection. For myself, I often need a pause before I can think of a question, and I appreciate knowing that a space will be made for that.