Media found guilty of stereotyping women as ‘splurgers’ who can’t manage their money

by Paul MacKenzie-Cummins
by Paul MacKenzie-Cummins

While the recent International Women’s Day reminded us of the urgency to battle the gender pay gap, a new report has found significant discrepancies in how the finance press talks about- and to- women regarding money.

An analysis of 300 finance articles from the UK revealed that 65% that are aimed specifically at women defined them as “splurgers”, excessive spenders and having poor judgement, adding they need to “rein in” their spending and “limit” their outgoings. Men were presented as being financially savvy, responsible and even encouraged to take “calculated risks”, to aspire and grow their investment portfolio with stock phrases such as ‘have a punt” or “play the game” seemingly commonplace.

Language aside, the tone of voice was also found to be different. When addressing a female readership, articles positioned the issue of finance as a “minefield” – one that is complex and threatening. For men, the tone was of optimism for a financial landscape that is “packed with opportunities”.

Even the use of imagery associated with each article aimed at women was different. The researchers found that photos tended to be of women seemingly emotional or physically overwhelmed – buried beneath a pile of mounting bills or even a patronising piggy bank strewn with pennies.

Articles aimed at men linked money with status and power – the more you have of the former, the higher the latter. This association was found to be the case in 70% of articles analysed and the imagery used typically showed “a suited (tanned) young white male leaning casually, smiling to camera, with an air of smug accomplishment.”

Is this sexism, or is the media simply reflecting the way in which society sees itself? At a time when diversity and equality is dominating the socio-economic agenda, the media and business in general needs to reassess the way in which they  communicate and engage with women…likewise with men.

Gender equality doesn’t stop at pay and earnings, it transcends so many different areas. The media is a key influencer and it needs to put paid to archaic assumptions and ditch the stereotypes.

Of course, this research prompts the question of whether men and women are addressed differently by the media in other areas. In sport? In politics? In charity? In business?