This American Life has featured male voices much more prominently throughout its 22 years, according to an analysis by visual essay site The Pudding.
The Pudding analyzed TAL transcripts and found that men spoke nearly two-thirds of the words on the show, even with host Ira Glass excluded from the analysis. The analysis also found that men speak more than half the time in 70 percent of TAL episodes.
The Pudding has previously analyzed media for gender representation, and “in most cases, the shortfall in equal representation is attributed to a lack of women behind the scenes,” writes the site’s Ash Ngu. So the results for TAL were surprising, given that the show “has historically had a majority women staff in an otherwise male-dominated radio industry.”
Fifty-seven percent of TAL’s current production staff is now female, according to The Pudding, but only 41 percent of contributors and 35 percent of interviewees have been female over the show’s run.
The Pudding shared its results with Glass, who said, “The fact that our mostly female staff and I have created a show where most of the voices are men is interesting and, frankly, disturbing. I shared the findings with the staff and we were not exactly sure what to do with it. It’s a sobering thing to see.”
Glass also told the site that the program has been working to increase diversity of its stories by hiring a diverse staff.
“The good news is that the data supports this notion,” Ngu wrote. “Women reporters tend to produce acts with slightly more female interviewees than male reporters.” She also noted that “the gender gap has slowly been closing” since the show began in 1995.
The Pudding shared its data available via Google Sheets.