Media Suite Logo
AboutMedia Suite ↗︎Twitter ↗︎

Data Stories

Stories from Dutch multimedia archives, powered by the Media Suite
read more

‘Ladies and gentlemen…’. Female and male presence in Dutch popular media

March 09, 2021


Willemien Sanders

As I am leafing through my digital newspaper and bookmarking the articles I intend to read later, I notice a headline on page two, which reads: “1.700 women accuse pharmacist Bayer” (NRC, 2021). It perfectly illustrates how, when an event involves women, they are named, while when it involves men, they are not. And that is because, according to Criado Perez (2019), men are assumed to be the default human being, and women the exception.

This is visible in, for instance, some of the headlines that accompany the Dutch general election campaign this year, including “More female party leaders than ever: does that matter? Absolutely” (Keultjes 2021a) and “Is a woman as leading candidate a vote-getter?…” (Theulings 2021). Such questions are never asked about male politicians.

Sometimes headlines are problematic for other reasons.“Record number of big Hollywood films had female directors in 2020” (Bakare 2021) blasted The Guardian on 4 January 2021, to continue that this record consisted of only 16%. However well intended, the headline hardly does justice to the reality.

As these headlines are examples of how gender in politics and popular media is discussed in the media, and as most people get their information through the media, it is important to understand how men and women are represented in the media1.

Gender representation in popular media has been a topic of interest for years in many countries, both among professional groups, such as the Geena Davis Institute (GDI) in the USA, the European Women’s Audiovisual Network (EWA), and ERA50:50 in Great Britain, as well as among researchers (see, for instance, Bielby 2009; Doukhan et al. 2018 ; Loist and Verhoeven 2019; Verhoeven et al. 2020; Wreyford 2015). But in the Netherlands, robust numbers about how many women are involved in the audio-visual sector and how this compares to men, are not available.

This data story focuses on gender in Dutch Media, both in front of and behind the camera, and on collecting and analysing data. It does so from a variety of perspectives. To begin with, it includes the presence of politicians and candidates in the Dutch general elections in March 2021 and the representation of women in the Dutch audio-visual sector in the period 2011-2020. However, the data story will grow and evolve as additional perspectives and stories will be added.

To research this, the various authors use a variety of methods. For the analysis of big data sets, technologies such as facial recognition (who is on screen), speaker recognition (who is talking), and speech recognition (what is being said) are available and facilitate the analysis of media content. In addition, data on the involvement of male and female professionals in the industry will provide insight in the male-female ratio over the past decade and the networks of collaboration that have developed. In each contributing story, the data and methods of analysis used will be explicated. To facilitate the use of different data sets, techniques and methods, data stories will be developed as a modular system.

Modular data stories

Academic research is formally often executed in the form of clearly demarcated projects, resulting in an academic article or book. However, research often develops less systematically as insights and ideas develop in the course of a project. In addition, opportunities to develop the research in different directions with various partners arise. Usually, this will result in different publications in different journals and books.

These data stories will be developed to make it possible to combine different contributions in a single publication space by developing modules. Ideally, these modules will each provide a specific analysis and a limited number of output formats (such as a graph or another visualisation). They can be reused by tweaking a few parameters, such as choosing a dataset and an output format. In the future, the modules will be developed as Jupyter Notebooks, in which data analysis and publication can be combined2 . Modules can be regarded as building blocks; several can be combined to ‘build’ a data story. The development of modules will hopefully lower the threshold to contribute: single analyses of a dataset rather than full research papers can be a valuable addition to a data story and find a place there.


The contents of this data story will develop over time. It contains, at the moment,

  1. Gendered talk: female and male presence in Dutch news and current affairs 1.1 Initial exploration: searching in the database
  2. The Media List: male and female politicians, the 2021 campaign and the media


Bakare, Lanre. 2021. ‘Record Number of Big Hollywood Films Had Female Directors in 2020’. The Guardian, 4 January 2021, sec. Film.

Bielby, Denise D. 2009. ‘Gender Inequality in Culture Industries: Women and Men Writers in Film and Television’. Sociologie Du Travail 51 (2): 237–52.

Criado Perez, Caroline. 2020. Invisible Women: Exposing Data Bias in a World Designed for Men. London: Vintage.

Doukhan, David, Géraldine Poels, Zohra Rezgui, and Jean Carrive. 2018. ‘Describing Gender Equality in French Audiovisual Streams with a Deep Learning Approach’. VIEW Journal of European Television History and Culture 7 (14): 103.

Keultjes, Hanneke. 2021. ‘Meer vrouwelijke lijsttrekkers dan ooit: maakt dat iets uit? Nou en of’. Het Parool. 16 February 2021.

Loist, Skadi, and Deb Verhoeven. 2019. ‘Complex Not Complicated: Gendered Media Industries in the Wake of #MeToo’. Media Industries Journal 6 (1).

NRC. 2021. ‘1.700 Vrouwen Klagen Bayer Aan’. NRC Handelsblad, 2 March 2021, sec. In het nieuws.

Theulings, Remko. 2021. ‘Is een vrouw als lijsttrekker een stemmentrekker? “Linkse kiezers vinden het wel een issue, maar inhoud staat nog altijd voorop”’. EenVandaag. 10 February 2021.

Verhoeven, Deb, Katarzyna Musial, Stuart Palmer, Sarah Taylor, Shaukat Abidi, Vejune Zemaityte, and Lachlan Simpson. 2020. ‘Controlling for Openness in the Male-Dominated Collaborative Networks of the Global Film Industry’. Plos One 15 (6).

Wreyford, Natalie. 2015. ‘Birds of a Feather: Informal Recruitment Practices and Gendered Outcomes for Screenwriting Work in the UK Film Industry’. The Sociological Review 63 (1_suppl): 84–96.

  1. Although the binary opposition of ‘men’ versus ‘women’, and the idea that any individual is either one or the other is problematic for several reasons, for practical reasons we stick to this somewhat outdated distinction.

  2. See also