Leadership and accountability
Who drives the process and who is accountable for success or failure is extremely important. Ultimately it is best if the ambition is set by people in leadership roles, but value has to be acknowledged throughout the organisation. Getting buy-in at all levels is key.
Most organisations are stretched financially and do not have budgets for these sorts of exercises. Choose the metrics and approach that work for your organisation from a time and resource perspective.
Who does it?
This matters. Is it done by one person, many people or everyone?
Manual or automated?
You will need to choose whether to use a manual counting approach or automated tools. Your choice may also depend on whether you are analysing print or online content.
Which metrics? What’s your sample size? Print or online (online means you can use automated tracking tools more easily). Do you just look at your home page? Do you look at all categories of news? Being able to break down by category is helpful. Also, how accurate do you want your data to be? The smaller the sample, the less representative it may be of gender balance in your content as a whole.
How frequently you collect data depends on all of the above factors: who does it, the time and resources they have available and the scope of the project.
How do you record your data? Who is in charge of keeping it? Is it a centralised and closed database or a collaborative database?
Communicating and sharing data
When you are starting out, it is probably wise to keep your data internal. This doesn’t just mean within senior management, however. It is important to be transparent within your organisation so that the people who are making and editing content are aware of the issue and what the progress is. Being transparent means that organisations are forced to turn their commitment to fixing a problem into actually doing something about it. Once you start seeing change, publishing and sharing your numbers widely can have a doubly positive effect. It can encourage other institutions to follow suit and it can positively reinforce the successes of your staff and reporters.
Implementation and onboarding
It is wise to have one person or one team overseeing the ‘project’. There are different ways to get departments on board. This could either be through blanket policies driven from the top – for example through a new gender balance editorial policy – or you could choose an incremental or voluntary approach where departments come on board when they are ready. You could start with a willing pioneering department or desk and get buy-in that way. This was the case for the BBC’s 50:50 project. Many programmes signed up voluntarily after seeing how the programme that kickstarted the initiative, Outside Source, successfully improved gender balance in its output.