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More than 60 organisations in 20 countries are now taking part in the BBC’s 50:50 Project, committed to creating media content that represents men and women equally.

There has been a three-fold increase since last year in the number of organisations beyond the BBC that have signed up to the 50:50 Project, with Unilever, RTÉ, TVNZ, the Financial Times, ABC News (Australia), and Lansons all implementing the methodology.

Last May, the BBC set a challenge to its teams involved with the project to prove that reaching 50% women contributors was sustainable. Over 600 teams across all BBC content divisions – including news, entertainment, sport and science – have signed up to the project to date.

Despite the significant challenges of coronavirus, results published today show 66% of datasets for the challenge month of March featured 50% women contributors. Only 34% of those datasets were reaching 50% women contributors when they first returned results, indicating there has been a shift in the representation of women in BBC content.

Some of the high profile programmes to return data for March and reach the 50% women mark include Radio 4’s The World This Weekend, the News at Six, BBC Breakfast, The Andrew Marr Show, The One Show, Radio 5 Live Breakfast and Songs of Praise. The BBC’s coverage of Glastonbury Festival in June and Sports Personality of the Year in December both also reached 50% women contributors.

In the results published today, data trends over a two-year period also indicate that, while change takes time, the longer a team spends monitoring their contributors, the more likely they are to improve the proportion of women. Of the 46 programmes who have been involved for more than two years, 78% reached 50% women contributors in March 2020. For teams involved for 18 months, 73% reached the required mark, and 68% for teams involved for 12 months.

Nina Goswami, the BBC’s Creative Diversity Lead for 50:50 and News and one of the report authors, says: “What is encouraging about this long-term trend is that it suggests cultural change is taking hold at the BBC. Our teams are creating sustainable change through 50:50 by monitoring their output, sharing data to inform editorial decisions, and building contacts of expert women so we can feature more diverse voices. Over time, the change in mind set of teams means that striving for balance becomes second-nature.”

Audiences have noticed a difference, with nearly 40% of those taking part in a nationally representative survey saying they had noticed an increase in the number of women in BBC online content, including BBC websites, iPlayer and BBC Sounds. One percent of respondents thought the number of men had increased. Among 16 to 34 year-olds, 40% say they derived greater enjoyment from BBC content as a result of seeing and hearing from more women. Meanwhile, 32% of women aged 25 to 34 say they now consume more BBC online content because of greater female representation.

The 50:50 Project contributes towards the BBC’s responsibility to ensure our content truly reflects our audiences. The Corporation aims to reach 50% women on-screen, on-air and in lead roles across all genres from Drama to Sport to News.

BBC Director-General, Tony Hall, said: “These results demonstrate the real impact the 50:50 Project is having – but that impact goes beyond the BBC, with other organisations at home and abroad adopting it. Its success is driven by the creativity, passion and determination of thousands of people around the world, and together with our ever growing number of partners, we can help ensure the media we all consume represents the world we live in.”

June Sarpong, BBC Director of Creative Diversity, said: “When it comes to gender equality, or diversity in general, we have to find effective ways of levelling the playing field. To do this we need to see and hear more role models in the media and emphasise the importance of representation, which is precisely the gap the 50:50 Project fills. We’re excited to build on the success of the project and with our external partners, together, we can truly maximise the impact of 50:50.”