Representation of Women in the News: Balancing between Career and Family Life

Open Access Journal | ISSN: 2183-2439

Article | Open Access

Representation of Women in the News: Balancing between Career and Family Life

  • Hanne Vandenberghe Institute for Media Studies, KU Leuven, Belgium

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Abstract:  An in-depth literature review showed that women, despite their increasingly prominent roles worldwide, continue to be persistently underrepresented and stereotyped in news media. This study aimed to investigate the extent to which the representation of women changed over time in two Dutch-speaking Belgian newspapers De Standaard and Het Laatste Nieuws. An automated quantitative content analysis revealed that there is no increase of the number of women in the newspapers between 2005 and 2015. On the contrary, women are significantly less represented over time in the popular newspaper Het Laatste Nieuws. A qualitative analysis on two cases about women stepping into a leadership position—in 2012 (Catherine De Bolle as head of the Federal police) and in 2014 (Dominique Leroy as CEO of a Belgian telecom company)—showed that the press emphasised their femininity, their being a role model for other women, their being part of a family and having certain looks. Moreover, these women are clearly portrayed as ‘the best candidate’ pointing at the selection procedures and their capabilities to perform professionally. Probably, this strong emphasis is a way of justifying that these women are not selected because of positive discrimination. Further analysis of cases of both men and women stepping into top positions across countries and media platforms is recommended.

Keywords:  content analysis; Dutch-speaking press; gender; news; representation; stereotyping; women



© Hanne Vandenberghe. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (, which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.