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Why Are 70 Percent of the Most Popular Podcasts Hosted By Men?

Destination DIY host Julie Sabatier with big headphones onIn my role artistic director of the Third Coast International Audio Festival, I've noticed something that bothers me. It's nothing new, it's fairly obvious, and it deserves your attention. It's the lack of female hosts in the ever-widening world of podcasts.

According to the widely-used podcast-delivery phone app Stitcher, as of mid-February, 2013, out of the top 100 podcasts in their system, 71 are hosted by men (many by two or three men), 11 are hosted by women (of which three are just 60 second long podcasts), 9 are co-hosted by a man and woman, and 9 are either NPR or BBC news aggregation podcasts with alternating hosts and reporters, or it's unclear who hosts. The statistics for iTunes results are similar.

As a radio addict, I generally keep up (or try to) with what's out there in the audio cosmos. I've long been aware that male-hosted podcasts out-number women-hosted podcasts. But the actual numbers floored me. They should alarm you, too. The statistics point to a disappointing truth: that podcasting, hailed back in 2004 as a "revolutionary" new tool for freedom of expression and endless creative opportunity, quickly copied the same gender stereotypes and realities that traditional broadcasting environments have demonstrated throughout history. 

Of course I'm not the only one who's noticed this, or who thinks about it. Nick van der Kolk (Snap Judgment, Love + Radio) posited the question via Facebook back in 2011, and Ashley Milne-Tyte (The Broad Experience) wrote about it last year, just to point to a couple previous public ponderings. But it's an issue that merits continuous noise, so here's an attempt to bang on a few more pots and pans about the situation.

I asked two dozen people (half women, half men) in the extended Third Coast community of producers, public radio decision-makers and podcast hosts to weigh in on the topic.  A little more than half responded. Of those who did respond, approximately 85% were women. What follows are my own thoughts, combined with observations and opinions from those who responded to my questions. These anecdotal experiences show a few main factors contributing to the egregious gender imbalance of the podcasting world. 

1. Most popular podcasts are about "guy things."
Beyond the highly successful public radio and public radio-esque podcasts (most of which are hosted by men) the podcasts in the top 100 lists are largely comedy, sports, "knowledge", and tech-related. These are all fields that are traditionally dominated by male hosts and guests, so it's not surprising that the most successful podcasts in these categories are hosted by men. Most of the relatively few podcasts in the top 100 that are hosted by women cover topics that are about "girl things," such as Grammar Girl, The Splendid Table, and Stuff Mom Never Told You. 

2. Podcast Have Sad Economics.
Unless they're born of already-existing media outlets (i.e. resources with business plans), most start-up podcasts bring in very little (if any) money and demand super-human efforts to be produced regularly. Many women who I spoke with mentioned they simply couldn't afford these terms—and if they could somehow manage not getting paid for tireless devotion to a project, they couldn't squeeze the hours needed into their already personally and professionally over-burdened days. Hillary Frank (The Longest, Shortest Time) pointed out that by the time they're experienced enough to understand what producing a top-notch podcast takes, women have often started, or are soon planning to start, a family. This seriously hinders time and energy for any other demanding endeavors—no matter how supportive and helpful one's partner is. This challenge clearly affects women differently, and more tangibly, than men.

Benjamen Walker (Too Much Information)—one of just three men who responded to my questions—answered in one frank sentence: "Women aren't stupid enough to slave away on a podcast for no money." 

3. Hosting a Show Requires Takes a Big Ego. 
Objectively: There's a certain amount of ego that goes along with being a host (of anything.)

Subjectively: Men seem more comfortable with feeling entitled to claiming center stage, marketing their shows, and asserting knowledge, expertise, wisdom, and opinions, than women. Men are also socialized more around technology, electronic equipment, recreational gadgetry, and are therefore more fluent in using these tools to make things like… podcasts. Women are more likely to work behind-the-scenes on a male-hosted podcast, or produce NON-hosted podcasts, than to insert themselves as hosts.

Objectively: In an age where social networking and DIY marketing can systematically decide the success/failure of endeavors big and small, this is a huge liability for women-hosted podcasts.

Obviously, these three points by no means collectively explain the relative lack of WHPs, but I hope they do begin to unpack some of the factors behind the dynamic.

So now what? Good news: Every single person reading this can do something to support women-hosted podcasts. One of the biggest hurdles to women being recognized more regularly as successful podcast hosts: most podcast listeners simply don't know about very many women-hosted podcasts. Interest is contagious, so if you intentionally seek out a couple podcats and listen to them, and like them, and write positive public reviews, and share and tweet and tag and point... you'll help attract more listeners to those podcasts, and momentum will build.

Beyond listening to shows, you can offer encouragement to women who are interested in podcasting—the support of friends and colleagues means a lot. And if you're a woman out there who has toyed with the idea of starting a podcast, but have not yet made the move... get busy! There are so many of us waiting to hear your work. 

For futher listening, an incomplete list of great women-hosted podcasts: 
Destination DIY (whose host Julie Sabatier is pictured above!) - This podcast and independent radio show features discussion of DIY topics from craft projects to gender to abortion.  
- Strangers (Lea Thau) - A podcast about the people we meet, the people we become, and the places we go
- Decode DC (Andrea Seabrook) - Deciphering Washington's language and procedure so you can focus on what matters
- Life of the Law (various hosts/all women) - A 360 degree view of our legal system
- Curious City (Jennifer Brandel) -  Curious City is a Chicago-based news-gathering experiment designed to satisfy your curiosities.
- The Broad Experience (Ashley Milne-Tyte) - A conversation about women, the workplace, and success
- The Longest, Shortest Time (Hillary Frank) – The truth about early motherhood
- Tiny Spark (Amy Costello) - Igniting debate about the business of doing good
- DTFD (Julia Barton) - Julia talks about all manner of things, while doing the dishes
- Grammar Girl (Mignon Fogarty) - Quick and dirty tips for better writing
- Girl on Guy (Aisha Tyler) - A show about art, culture, booze, comedy, family, physical injuries, psychological bruises, action movies, rock music, ninjas, zombies, failure, success, sacrifice, video games, and blowing shit up.
- The Other Woman (Ruth Barnes) – The finest place to learn about new music by women across the genres from around the world.  
- Vox Tablet (Sarah Ivry) A new listen on Jewish life
- Slate's Double X Gabfest (Noreen Malone, Hanna Rosin, Emily Yoffe) - Slate's weekly women's roundtable.
- Tabled Fables  (Amy Kraft and Sophie Bushwick) - A podcast about fairy tales
- BBC Women's Hour - 50+ year old show offering a female perspective on the world
- Lost Treasures of the Black Heart  (Josie Long) - A comedy podcast dedicated to uncovering obscure facts, unknown gems and remembering unsung heroes
- The Hackney Podcast (Francesca Panetta) - A creative show exploring various issues in the London borough of Hackney. 
PLUS: Bitch Media has several podcasts and will be re-launching the Popoganda podcast this spring!

 

Any other favorite podcasts? Add them to the comments!

 

The article was originally posted on Transom.org, where you should also go give a shout out to your favorite podcasts. 

Credit for photo of Destination DIY radio host Julie Sabatier: Cameron Browne.

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Comments

31 comments have been made. Post a comment.

I love podcasts!

Maybe you're not counting public radio shows that are podcasted, but two of my favorite podcasts are Good Food, hosted by Evan Kleiman on KCRW, and On the Media, cohosted by Brooke Gladstone on WNYC.

And yes, please do bring back popaganda!

I love Brooke!

Brooke Gladstone is totally one of my radio heroes. Not only does she co-host an awesome show, but as regular listeners know, On the Media is edited...by Brooke.

Favorite Woman Hosted Podcasts

I love Throwing Shade co-hosted by Erin Gibson, which always talks about feminist news/issues. Also, This Feels Terrible hosted by Erin McGathy is hilarious and talks sex and relationships.

And Grantland just launched a new podcast with three of the women writers talking about weekly pop culture topics.

Agreed

I agree that This Feels Terrible can be pretty funny, and Erin McGathy is a charming host. Feral Audio, the podcast collective she belongs to has quite a few shows with women hosts: http://feralaudio.com/podcasts/. Also, I learned about another podcast through This Feels Terrible that's hosted by a married couple (a man and a woman) where they give relationship advice called Totally Married (she - Elizabeth Laime - also has her own podcast Totally Laime as well).

I am a podcast addict and a

I am a podcast addict and a lady. I wanted to add a few more of my favorites to your list..

-Alison Rosen Is Your New Best Friend: The name of the podcast might make her sound a little bit like a jerk, but she's absolutely not. I really love the way she interviews people and she's extremely funny.

-How Was Your Week with Julie Klausner: She is funny and opinionated, which could be annoying if she wasn't so darned charming and entertaining.

-The JV Club: Janet Varney interviews people about their youthful years. She's a sensitive soul and she asks her guests good questions.

New to Podcasts

Thanks so much for posting this! I'm way behind on the times and only recently have started figuring out podcasts (other than streaming from NPR.com)
I'm really excited to have a starting point and look forward to giving many of these a listen.

Just Getting Back Into Podcasts

I used to be a podcast junkie while doing my homework and such in college. My first introduction to podcasts was the Adam Carolla show. It became way too racist, misogynist, and offensive for my taste (the earlier shows were better), so I moved on. I love Democracy Now with Amy Goodman, Rachel Maddow Show video podcast (for times when I miss the show), and Grammer Girl.

I need to give shout-out to BGT (Black Girls Talking) it's a baby podcast just over a year old I believe. It's hosted by four women of color and it discusses racism and exclusion in pop culture, the problems with white feminism, cultural appropriation, and do movie reviews and roundups of news throughout the week. Their lastest podcast had Danielle Henderson, the creator of Feminist Ryan Gosling on. http://blackgirlstalking.tumblr.com/

While we're on the subject of podcasting and the lack of female voices, does anyone know of any good books or blogs on how one would get started developing a podcast of their own? I wanted to start one badly with a friend of mine but she never took it seriously.

Thank you for this!

I'm a big podcast fan. I probably listen to at least one every day and only a few months ago, I suddenly realized how almost every single voice I heard was male. I realized that I was longing to hear a female voice. Despite the fact that I'd previously told myself that I was to subscribe to no more podcasts, I went out searching for some hosted by women. I was worried about this very issue and was concerned that this form that was supposed to be so wide open was already so dominated by men. I thought about starting one myself for half a second, just to help even out the odds - but for all the reasons you mention here, thought better of it.
Anyway - my active search for some female voices in my Podcast feed led me here to Bitch (thank you!) though I was sad to discover that your podcast is pretty sporadic thus far (make more please, it was one of the winners!) I also discovered DNTO, Sex Nerd Sandra and Stuff you Missed in History Class. I'm excited to check out your suggestions above! Thank you!

women in podcasting

I have a few more to add to the list:
Debbie Millman's Design Matters - she interviews people in the design world - illustrators, designers, artists and some folks in marketing
Jaclyn Friedman's Fucking While Feminist - I think the title speaks for itself ;)
Anna David's True Tales of Love and Lust - a monthly podcast where various women tell their stories

All-Female Doctor Who Podcast

This article is so fascinating to me. I was recently on a podcasting panel at a Doctor Who convention where we discussed this very issue, and we postulated some of these very same reasons.

As for a female-hosted podcast, allow me to humbly suggest my very own podcast: Verity! www.veritypodcast.com It's an international Doctor Who podcast hosted by myself and another woman, with four additional rotating (female) contributors.

Thank you for bringing this issue to light!

seconding the FWF recommendation!

Jaclyn's podcast is super duper awesome. Just wanted to give it a second enthusiastic shout-out!

science fiction podcasts

Great article! Thanks for raising this issue.

I'm a co-host on two all-female podcasts about issues often thought of (WRONGLY) as being 'male.'

Galactic Suburbia (http://galactisuburbia.podbean.com/) is a discussion podcast about science fiction and fantasy publishing, news and gossip. We were nominated for a Hugo last year, which is one of the more prestigious SF awards - and the podcast which beat us to the trophy, SF Squeecast, is predominantly made up of female voices.

Meanwhile, Verity! Podcast (http://veritypodcast.wordpress.com/) is all about Doctor Who, with a rotating cast of six women.

In both cases, we have a wide audience of men and women - Galactic Suburbia in particular receives emails from male listeners as well as women, often crediting us with inspiring them to widen and diversify their reading choices. Verity! is very new, but has been embraced and supported by the (very male heavy) Doctor Who podcasting community. We've also had some really touching emails from women who have been desperate to hear female voices and perspectives on the show they love.

Running podcasts is a crazy amount of work, for no financial reward (Galactic Suburbia won an award last year which earned us enough money to cover web costs for a few years) but in both cases it's been a great community building exercise and I feel we've achieved something positive. Plus, it's SO MUCH FUN. You can talk about whatever you want and no one can derail or silence you (except, well, each other, but we try to keep that to a minimum). The discussion starts for real once we have said all WE want to say.

That's fantastic! I'm going

That's fantastic! I'm going to listen to your podcast coz as a woman, I'm into sci-fi! :) Congrats on your nomination! xx

Love The SF Podcasts!

Thank you for bringing up these science fiction loving podcasts! Definitely check out the SF Squeecast if this is your thing. Has anyone else noticed how supportive women who host podcasts are toward other hosts and artists?? I hear some men being like this, definitely, but women seem to praise even more. :) And, I love Galactic Suburbia!!

co-hosting sci-fi podcasts

An interesting article. I think the point of the amount of time podcasting consumes is a major factor in limiting women's involvement. I'm the first regular female co-host the DWO: Whocast has had, and the amount of time it takes to prepare for, record, and edit the weekly podcast is sometimes overwhelming.

I am a co-host on two podcasts with mixed co-hosts: the DWO: Whocast http://www.dwowhocast.libsyn.com/ a Doctor Who podcast with three men and two women, wherein we rotate hosts for different segments, and a general pop-culture podcast PDAIS http://profdave.libsyn.com/ , with two men and two women (one of whom has now had a child and has therefore stepped back to an occasional co-host).

The Moth Radio Hour

The Moth Radio Hour, which is now featured weekly on many public radio stations, not only features many stories told in women's voices, but has at least two women, two of their producers, rotating as hosts. Having a woman host every week would be nice, but for some listeners they are all they get to hear on any regular basis outside of the "inter-webs."

cool W Coast podcast I love

Have to mention Feminist Magazine to add to the list! They've been on KPFK Pacifica for a while, but just relaunched their radio show with fresh voices a few months ago & The show is also a podcast - with some awesome guests lately: SoCal people you don't hear elsewhere, plus a truly excellent mix of issues, global feminism, pop culture plus book/movie commentaries. http://bit.ly/PodcastFemMag

Love, love, love FemMag!

Love, love, love FemMag! I've been listening to them via Stitcher and they've brought repro justice voices like Chula doula to their show. And I heard about plays and books and local chicana bike brigade Ovarian Psyco Cycles and all the new activism that is being done. Blown away!

I really don't see the issue here

If you want to start a podcast, just go do it. A basic microphone is around $20 and the software is free.

I listen to a lot of podcasts. Some are hosted by men, others by women, but either way, I listen to it because it is a good show. I don't care whether the host is a man or a woman. I don't see why this is a big deal.

Equality in podcasting requires an effort

I agree with Aaron. The fact that an issue about more MHPs than WHPs was even raised seems to suggest there is some cosmic unfairness at play here. It's simply a fact and let's not make any more of it than needed. The Internet and PodCasting are equally accessible to both men and women.

So, Women with a story to tell, business to launch, research to do, photos to post, contacts to make...etc etc. Start your engines. The information super highway is open and ready for all who want take it out on the open road.

Quit your bitching bitch

Podcasts are still a revolutionary medium. There are no barriers to creating a podcast, anyone can create one. So ladies if you want more podcasts created by women, then create more podcasts. If it's interesting, and better still, entertaining, it will be popular. Most people listening don't care if the host is a man or woman so long as they can hold their attention, captivate them and entertain/inform them.

Why Are 70 Percent of the Most Popular Podcasts Hosted By Men? |

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more female podcasts

Loved finding this list of podcast with/by women -- two of my favorites are :

The Jillian Michaels Show - funny, inspiring, great for working out to
and of course:

Terry Gross: NPR's "Fresh Air"

Nerdy Ladies with a Podcast!

Nerdette Podcast is co-hosted by Greta Johnsen and Tricia Bobeda. It's a safe space for nerding out about all the things you're watching, reading, listening to and encountering IRL. Check us out! We're on iTunes and Stitcher and all of the good things.

All in the Mind

Let me recommend the podcast All in the Mind out of Australia, hosted by Lynne Malcolm:, a program about the mind, brain and behaviour, and the endlessly fascinating interactions between them.

Examples of recent subjects:
Racing Minds - about adult ADHD.
The science of Love and Happiness -How the chemistry in our brain drives us to love, and why happiness is good for us.
Animal Minds - Ants can teach, rats have a sense of humour, chimpanzees can deceive and elephants grieve. Fascinating research now shows that the cognitive and emotional processes of animals are far more sophisticated than we once thought.
The Anatomy of Violence - Ants can teach, rats have a sense of humour, chimpanzees can deceive and elephants grieve. Fascinating research now shows that the cognitive and emotional processes of animals are far more sophisticated than we once thought.
Curiosity - Are you a curious explorer? Curiosity is the missing ingredient in our search for a more fulfilling life, says Todd Kashdan.

Tomboy Tarts Agree

Haha! Nicely written article and to an extent its true but I think if a woman/women are determined, they can move mountains. Believe it is also the voice in which these podcasts are done. For example my friends and I are currently producing a comedy tirade fortnighlty, called Tomboy Tirade where we celebrate the classic spirit of being a tomboy (not in the lesbian sense - we always have to clarify this because the word tomboy has casually been taken to mean manly lesbians and it's not at all).

And our voice is pretty loud, debauched and our topics are not really feminine skewed because we believe that the woman of today is not just into baking and cookies. She's also into career, business, gadgets and entertainment, so we try to give that different perspective to our audiences.

But we have noticed that we get a lot of support from our guy friends and male audiences and our women counterparts don't really support us and that's the difference also.

A lot of the time, women don't actively support each other. Despite the talk about 'sisterhood', we feel that males are better in that department. It seems that the 'brotherhood' is waaaay stronger. Women also tend to drop out because of marriage/children as the article said and there's very little commitment to unimportant stuff like this as opposed to keeping the family together, which is odd in a day when husbands and wives are carrying equal responsibilities for the household.

But that's our view of it. But anywhoo, if you have time to stomach our brand of loud, unbridled comedy, check us out on Podomatic or iTunes as TOMBOY TIRADE and support, support, support us people!

Thought that I would let you know about our podcast!

Hi I am Gerri Donaldson half of the Women Talk Sci Fi podcast, the other half is Eugenia Stopyra. We are from Australia and have been podcasting for about 4 years. Our podcast is an interview podcast and we have been lucky to interview actors from many shows in the Sci Fi genre. We started the show because there were few women in podcasting and we thought that this would be a way to have women's voices heard. We have had some great feedback, if you get to listen, we hope you enjoy.

Gerri & Eugenia

Creatively Entertaining Podcast

Add us to the list!

The Thinking Violets Podcast is written and hosted by Davi Rutenberg and Erin Ferrell, who would rather discuss archetypes and punk rock than cupcakes and parenting. They are artist/writers who live a thousand miles apart on the West Coast. Using their own poetry, stories, and songs, along with interviews and commentary, they explore topics in culture, mythology, the arts, and psychology. Check them out on iTunes!

The Uglee Truth

Thanks for posting this article. There are a number of great female hosted podcasts out there that don't get the exposure they deserve and we think ours is one of them. Granted, this is a selfish ploy for attention but Jamie & Paula, the sister hosts of The Uglee Truth (or "Ugs" as they are better known) have been sharing hilarious weekly shows for over a year.

The show features their take on just about anything. They have no filter and no topic is off limits as evidenced by their annual Vagina episode and the Uglee Awkward Moment of the week feature. It's the Ugs' frank talk that appeals to women and men alike. We invite all of your readers to check it out at http://ugleetruth.com. It's also available on iHeartRadio Talk (Comedy category), Stitcher, iTunes and, of course, you can subscribe at http://ugleetruth.libsyn.com/rss.

THANKS!
Producer Dub

Another fantastic podcast

Listen to Homemade News on KCHUNG's 1630 AM or at www.homemadenews.com. It's so good!

Uninspiring article

I'm not sure I would want to be included in your list after reading the article! According to Nr. 2 I must be a loser, and according to Nr. 3 I must have an inflated ego! ;-)
Maybe it's more interesting to ask women why they podcast and hear their stories than to make generalizations about why there's not more of them. I'm not sure your article is going very far to help the feminist cause, or to get people excited about podcasting.
- Marie Ross, The Fidelio Podcast