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Numerically Under-Represented but Equally Treated Female Experts in Israeli TV Talk Shows and Not Shows

Amir Hetsroni
Associate Professor – Department of English, Language and Communication, Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University, China
Corresponding Author: Amir Hetsroni Associate Professor – Department of English, Language and Communication, Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University, China, Email: [email protected]
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This study used a content analysis of 238 hours of Israeli talk shows from 2012 where 495 experts took part to map the gender distribution of TV experts and explore potential differences in the way men and women are treated in the programs. Men experts outnumbered women experts in a 1.7 to 1 ratio. These men were significantly older than the women and tended to have a higher academic rank, but they were not treated more favorably during the program. The topics on which the experts commentated reflect familiar gender stereotypes with men more likely to talk about security, politics and economy and women more often talk about body grooming and child care. The results, which partly accord with feminist criticisms of the popular media, are analyzed in relation to the theoretical concept of symbolic annihilation and the findings of studies that looked at the gender of scientists and scholars in other TV genres.


Television; Talk Shows; Experts; Gender; Content Analysis; Israel Symbolic Annihilation


Does a numerical under-representation of women in prestigious roles on television coincide with degrading attitude toward them within the programs? This question is posed by our study which reports on a content analysis that explored similarities and dissimilarities in the appearance of male and female experts in Israeli TV talk shows. For many years, feminist activists assert that biased depictions of gender roles in the media help to strengthen stereotypes about women and their place in the society (Cavender, Bond-Maupin & Jurik, 1999; Paek, Nelson & Vilela, 2011; Tuchman, 1978). By featuring distinct positions and different behavioral norms for males and females, popular TV programs may reinforce the adoption of attitudes in support of such gaps (Holbert, Shah & Kwak, 2006). This led gender researchers to document gender differences in popular fictional TV formats (Lauzen, Dozier & Horan, 2008), but studies tended to concentrate on head counting and paid less attention to gender differences in the way genders are treated within the programs. Even when the number of males and females who appear in a program is more or less equal, the show may still construe gender dominancy by treating the genders differently throughout the program and by ascribing them with different roles (van Zoonen, 1996).
Furthermore, only scant attention has been given hitherto to studying gender roles in talk shows, which occupy a major share of the programming schedule in various channels all over the world (Johnson ,Smith, Mitchell, Orego & Yun, 1999), and play a vital role in supplying knowledge and providing advice to large publics (Holderman, 2003). Hence, our study which examines differences and similarities in the representation of male and female experts in talk shows is timely. Even if we leave the potential effects of exposure to biased gender roles aside, this content analysis is valuable in mapping cultural trends in displaying proficiency (Greenberg, 1980, p.XII). Finally, since the study is conducted in Israel it would shed light on the impact of gender on non-fictional TV content outside the more often surveyed U.S. media and portray the situation in a transitional society where gender egalitarianism alongside traditional stereotypes coexist.

Gender Distribution and Gender Roles in Television

Since its infancy, television has been regarded a major socialization agent which transmits beliefs, values, and attitudes (Gerbner, 1998) and nurtures behaviors (Bandura, 2009). This raised the scientific community's interest in mapping the demographics and qualities of individuals and groups who appear on the small screen, and whose appearance indicates what is acceptable in society (Greenberg, 1980, p.XII). It goes without saying that the lenses through which the media represent "reality" evince an outlook of powerful political, economic and creative elites (Gamson, Croteau, Hoynes & Sasson, 1992). People who belong to powerful societal sectors (e.g. rich people, men) not only appear in the media more frequently, but are also portrayed as more reasonable and more rational than persons of weaker strata (van Dijk, 1995), who may even sometimes lower their self esteem in accordance with the unflattering reflection of their lives in the media (Cohen & Young, 1981). As Weimann (2000a, pp. 10-12) notes, television provides a rather restricted set of contents for a much less restricted number of viewers. The process through which the contents are chosen (for instance – inviting certain family law experts to comment in a talk show on the legal aspects of divorce) is intentionally selective, prioritizing certain societal segments. The outcome is a (re)constructed reality which seems "natural" to ordinary viewers. Symbolic annihilation (Tuchman, 1978) is a concept often used to describe an ongoing non-representation or under-representation of women in prestigious roles in the media as part of the reconstructed reality. Symbolic annihilation has three forms: omission (refraining altogether from featuring women in broadcasts),trivialization (presenting females as callous) and condemnation (documenting females’ involvement in unlawful behavior).
As part of the general interest in symbolic annihilation, reality reconstruction and the media representation of privileged and deprived social groups, numerous studies regarding the appearance of men and women on television took place with commercials attracting most of the researchers' attention. Early research from the 1970s found that TV advertisements portrayed women in a rather stereotypical manner - being overly emotional (Busby, 1975), passive (McArthur & Resko, 1975) and domestic in their interests (Dominick & Rauch, 1972). Later research depicted a less unequivocal picture: While a number of recent studies indicate a shift towards a more egalitarian representation of genders (Eisend, 2010), particularly in western cultures (Furnham & Paltzer, 2010), few works still find no signs of change in the tendency to portray gender roles in accordance with familiar stereotypes (Mager & Helgeson, 2010; Luyt, 2011), especially in traditional cultures (Ali, Ali, Kumar, Hafeez & Ghufran, 2012). Content analyses of U.S. news programming teach us that in the mid 1990s males appeared in front of the camera as anchors and reporters more often than females (Liebler & Smith, 1997). This trend was still noticed a decade later (Desmond & Danilewicz, 2010). Studies that examined the portrayal of men and women in fictional TV genres point at a rather similar trend. In the 1950s, there were two males on every female in U.S. TV drama (Smythe, 1954), a ratio that hardly changed in five decades (Glascock, 2001). On the other hand, the share of career women among female protagonists did increase in the last two decades, a trend that reflects changes in the makeup of the American labor force (Lauzen et al., 2008). Still, across a range of TV formats, women remain frequently depicted in traditional female professions such as secretaries and teachers (Signorielli, 2012). Such portrayal can have a prevailing cultivation effect on males, who may underestimate the capability of women to succeed in complicated male tasks, and on women viewers who – in the absence of successful role models of their own gender - may internalize an underestimation of their talents (Morgan, 1982; Signorielli, 1989). Studies regarding the representation of gender in Israeli television, whose broadcasts form the dataset of the current investigation, are scant, but adhere to the global trend of stereotypization alongside a recent move towards more egalitarianism. A study of commercials from the mid 1990s found that 75% of the major roles are filled in by men (Weimann, 2000b). Avraham, First and Elephant-Loffler (2004) detected a three-to-one ratio of men to women in news magazines and two-and-a-half-to-one in dramatic series from the early 2000s, whereas a follow-up study that took place half a decade later found that in both genres the ratio of men to women shrank to two-to-one (Leor, Elephant-Loffler & Lankry, 2006). This pattern of findings may represent an ongoing collision between opposite forces that operate within Israeli society. The secular Zionist ideology and the close contacts with western countries push Israelis to adopt an egalitarian position with regards to gender roles (Almog, 2004). Yet, at the same time, the predominance of the Orthodox fraction of Judaism, the sect to which officially nearly all Israeli Jews belong (Levy, Levinsohn & Katz, 2002), may shove the Israeli public to adopt a more traditional view of gender roles in accordance with religious customs that posit men as heads of the family and women as stay at home moms (Ariel, 1993). Israeli women develop business careers in smaller number than men and are severely under-represented in senior positions, making up on only 4% of the CEOs in companies whose stokes are traded in the local stock-exchange (Cohanim, 2013), possibly also due to the more negative view towards career women among observant Israelis (Maagar Mohot Research Institute, 2012). In academe, while females constitute as many as 51% of the junior lecturers, they fill only 33% of the senior faculty slots (Goldschmidt, 2012). Yet, one cannot ignore rapid changes that have occurred in Israel in recent years: For example, in 2012-2013 alone women doubled their parliamentary representation, conquered a CEO position in 3 out of the 5 largest banks and a rector's position in 2 of the 8 research-first universities. The question to what extent will this change find manifestation in a large media share of female experts on Television (including prestigious domains that have been traditionally reserved mainly to men) brings to mind Ogburn's (1964) concept of cultural lag. According to Ogburn, mass culture is often the last venue where profound social changes find expression because the shareholders of corporations which operate this culture have the least interest in these changes. On the other side of the spectrum there are scholars who claim that television is a venue that quickly catches up with feminist ideas because liberal attitudes are prevalent among the media creative personnel (Press, 2009). The bottom line is that in a mixed society like Israel, where conservative and liberal forces fiercely battle over the division of gender roles, media expressions of egalitarianism alongside traditional stereotypes may coexist.

Experts on Television

Expertise on television can be signified by featuring certain figures and excluding others. Experts appear on television either as fictional characters or as themselves in non-fictional programs such as talk shows. Often, fictional TV experts are quite similar in characteristics to non-fictional scholars who take part in talk shows (Johnson et al., 1999). Therefore, from reviewing literature concerning gender differences in the appearance of expert figures in fictional TV formats, we may learn of trends that are relevant to our study. Research regarding the representation of scientific experts as fictional characters in American TV drama (the only corpus of programming where this topic has been examined hitherto) found that their share of the overall protagonists' population was negligible - around one-percent (Dudo, Brossard, Shanahan, Scheufele, Morgan & Signorielli, 2011). A two-to-one ratio of men to women characterizes the makeup of the academic scholars population in fictional programming now, as it did in the 1980s (Dudo et al., 2011; Gerbner, Gross, Morgan & Signorielli, 1985). A tendency to downplay the expertise of women scientists, which was still noted in the 1990s (Steinke, 1997), vanished recently as part of a general pattern of diminishing gender gaps in the professional background of fictional TV scientists (Long, Steinke, Applegate, Lapinski, Johnson & Ghosh, 2010). In fact, even the under-representation of female academics in TV drama exists only when the baseline for the comparison is fictional male academics, as the share of female scientific protagonists in American dramatic programming is not lower than the share of women in the faculty body of U.S. universities. In other words, women are under-represented in scientists' roles on television just as they are less likely to be employed as professors of science in higher education institutes (Ceci, Williams & Barnett, 2009). Yet, the presentation of women scientists in fictional programming is rather serious and appreciative and (in this aspect) equal to men – a beneficial key-point for younger viewers who aspire to develop a scientific career (Dudo et al., 2011).
When it comes to the representation of scientists in non-fictional programming, talk shows constitute the arena wherein - all over the world - scholars receive the largest exposure (Abt & Mustazza, 1997; Patrona, 2005). In programs such as The Doctors, Good Morning America and Dr. Phil which are franchised worldwide experts answer layman questions posed by a host and reply to in-studio audience or viewers at home who ask about medical problems, emotional difficulties, legal hurdles and other domestic issues (Lunt & Lewis, 2008, p.10). Typically presented as the voice of authority (Munson, 1993), experts give advice that is rarely challenged within the program (Holderman, 2003, p.47), and is often unconditionally accepted by the viewers, especially the less educated ones (Heaton & Wilson, 1995). Such viewers tend to shape their view of intellectuals and scientists partly on the basis of popular talk shows (Johnson et al., 1999), which are quite often their only opportunity to see and hear academics showcasing their expertise (Holderman, 2003, p.47), even if in a somewhat simplified manner due to the medium's constrains. Given all of that, the lack of studies concerning gender differences and similarities in the presentation of experts in talk shows highlights the timeliness of our research.

Research Questions, Hypotheses and Rationale

We posit two directional hypotheses and two questions. In the absence of previous studies on gender representation of experts in talk shows, we base our rationale partly on findings of studies that examined the representation of scientists and experts in fictional genres and take into consideration the common assumption among media scholars that popular programming is a relatively coherent universe of cohesive messages (Gerbner, 1998; Weimann, 2000b).

H1: Men would outnumber women as experts in talk shows.

In fictional TV formats male academics and scientists outnumber women in these roles (Dudo et al., 2011; Long et al., 2010). More generally speaking, male protagonists outnumber women characters in nearly any fictional format (Glascock, 2001). This trend is also noted in fictional Israeli TV shows (Leor et al., 2006) and in U.S. news programming (Desmond & Danilewicz, 2010). We expect it to prevail in talk shows.

H2: Female experts would more often commentate on domestic topics (e.g. child care) and body grooming (e.g. beauty and design), whereas male experts would more often talk about politics, economy and security.

The rationale here rests on content analyses of various TV formats which found that – at least to some extent - men still engage in typical male occupations and hobbies and women still hinge to traditional female vocations and practice child-care (Mager & Helgeson, 2010; Wolin, 2003). This trend is even stronger in not entirely western societies such as Israel, where religious-conservative voices are as prevalent as calls for gender egalitarianism (Almog, 2004). We conceive the topic of discussion in the program to be closely related to the expert's occupation: an ex-general would likely commentate about security and a successful businessman would probably share a business advice, whereas a cosmetician would be able to share her expertise when it comes to skin peeling, and midwife would give advice about birth. Since in Israel politicians, military personnel, successful businessmen and economists are more often men, whereas educators and cosmeticians are more frequently women (Almog, 2004), we expect to find gender differences accordingly in the topic of experts' commentary in talk shows.

RQ1: Would male experts in talk shows be older and senior (in academic ranking) or younger and junior - compared to female experts?

So far, content analyses of fictional programming failed to detect considerable differences in the professional-academic background of scientists and scholars (Dudo et al., 2011; Long et al., 2010). Since academic seniority correlates with age, we cannot predict at this stage whether gender differences in the age of experts, who appear in talk shows, would be noticeable.

RQ2: Would female and male experts be treated similarly or differently (e.g. criticized and disagreed with at the same frequency or at different frequencies) throughout the program?

With the exception of Holderman (2003, p. 45), who describes talk shows as "an Anti-Intellectual affair," the literature tends to concur that these shows present academics as certified knowledge authorities (Johnson et al., 1999; Powell & Prasad, 2010), and that this mode of presentation characterizes not only U.S. programs (Patrona, 2005). Criticism of experts and scientists, a rare occurrence in fictional programming (Dudo et al., 2011), was never measured in non-fictional shows; however, since studies of fictional genres do not point at major gender differences in the accolades awarded to scientists across gender lines, we cannot predict at this stage whether such differences would be noticeable in the treatment of experts in talk shows.


The study took place in Israel in 2012. Content analysis was used to determine the number of men and women who appear as experts in TV talk shows, their characteristics, and qualities related to the discussion in which they took part in the program.


The data were obtained from a systematic coding of four weeks worth of broadcasting of talk shows aired in Israel throughout February-June 2012 between 8am and midnight in two terrestrial commercial networks (Channel 2and Channel 10), and one public broadcasting station (Channel 1). The two commercial networks are the most popular TV stations in Israel. Combined, they attract 60% of the viewers. Channel 1 is the only public broadcasting station in Israel. It is ranked third in the number of viewers (Eurodata TV, 2011). The constructed week method was used to sample the programs. In this method, one day is picked randomly for each channel in each week until a complete constructed week representing week days and weekend days emerges. However, weeks that contain official state holidays or religious holidays were not sampled so as not to contaminate the dataset with non-representative content related specifically to the holidays. Any talk show that was aired in one of the sampled days was included in the sample. The process was repeated to obtain four weeks worth of broadcasting consisting of 1428 hours of programming (476 hours from each channel) of which 238 hours consisted of talk shows. These shows featured 495 experts.

Coding Book and Coding Reliability

Two units of analysis were used throughout the coding: the expert and the discussion in which the expert took part. Expert categories (variables) consisted of gender, age and education. Discussion categories (variables) included topic, criticism of the expert's expertise and disagreement with the expert.
The coding was done by two students, who worked separately without being privy to the goals of the research. The coders were trained together for six hours and on an individual basis for additional two hours. Before starting to code the dataset they practiced on two hours of talk shows that were not included in the final sample. Then, each broadcast was coded twice by the two coders. Inter-coder reliability was computed separately for each category using Cohen's Kappa coefficient. The values that ranged from К =.810 to К =.998 indicate high reliability. The coders were allowed to consult external sources to determine the accuracy of their coding where such consultation could be useful (e.g. verifying the expert's academic degree by calling the university where s/he works). Cases of disagreement were brought for tandem discussion between the coders. Five cases, on which the coders remained unable to reach agreement, were solved by the authors. Table 1 lists - for each variable - the coding options and inter coder reliability.



To test H1, according to which the share of women experts in talk shows is lower than the share of men experts in the programs, we look at the gender breakdown across the sample. The four-hundred and ninety-five experts consisted of 313 men (63.2%) and 182 women (36.8%). The majority of men is statistically significant and H1 is confirmed, since the null hypothesis suggesting equal proportions among the genders is rejected {χ2(df=1)=34.7 P<.001}.


To test H2, according to which female experts more often commentate on domestic topics and body grooming, whereas male experts more often talk about politics, economy and security, let us look at Table 2 which shows the distribution of topics by gender.
The difference in gender distribution across the topics is significant {χ2(df=7)=41.8 P<.001 λ=.046}. As expected, compared to men, women are significantly over-represented in discussions about body grooming (13.7% vs. 3.7% ; χ2(df=1)=8.4 P=.004 λ=.030) and child care and education (13.7% vs. 4.6% ; χ2(df=1)=26.2 P<.001 λ=.087), but they are under-represented in discussions concerning security and self defense (0.0% vs. 10.6% ; χ2(df=1)=13.8 P<.001 λ=.004), politics (2.9% vs. 10.1% ; χ2(df=1)=7.5 P=.006 λ=.020), and economy (9.6% vs. 16.6% ; χ2(df=1)=18.4 P<.001 λ=.007). H2, which predicted these differences, is confirmed.


To answer RQ1, which asked whether male experts, who appear in talk shows, are different in age or academic rank from their female counterparts, we look at two cross-tabulations: gender by age (Table 3) and gender by academic rank (Table 4).
From Table 3 we learn that the share of male experts in the older age brackets (50 years old and older) is higher than the share of women experts in the same brackets (31.3% vs. 18.6% in the 50-59 age group; 23.0% vs. 8.8% in the 60-69 years old age group; 1.8% vs. 0.0% in the 70 years old and more age group). In the youngest cohorts (experts who are younger than 30) the shares of men and women are quite similar, but in the 30 to 50 year old age range, the share of female experts exceeds the share of male experts (31.4% vs. 16.6% in the 30-39 years old age group; 38.2% vs. 24.4% in the 40-49 years old age group). Since age groups (contrary to age) constitute an ordinal scale (young to old), Mann-Whitney test with approximation to normal distribution is used to assess gender differences in this category. The Rank Biserial coefficient measures the size of the effect. The results of the procedure indicate a significant gender difference in age group distribution with a moderate effect {Z=4.7, P<.001, rrb = .283}. Given that, we confer that male experts are older than female experts.
From Table 4 we learn that the share of male experts who are doctors (42.9%) and professors (12%) is higher than the share of women experts in these ranks (35.3% and 3.9% respectively). In contrast, the share of women experts who hold only junior academic degrees (BA, MA) (36.3%) and the share of women who have no academic diploma at all (24.5%) are higher than the share of men in these groups (27.6% and 15.5% respectively). Since academic ranks (that express seniority) constitute an ordinal scale, Mann-Whitney test with approximation to normal distribution is used to assess gender differences in this category. The Rank Biserial coefficient measures the size of the effect. The results of the procedure indicate a significant gender difference in academic rank distribution with a small effect {Z=2.8, P=.004, rrb = .170}. In light of that, we conclude that male experts are ranked higher at the academic ladder than female experts.


Two indicators were used to measure the treatment of experts in the program and answer the question whether female experts are treated differently from male experts: criticism of the expert's expertise (critique made by the host, or the studio audience, or the viewers at home) and disagreement with the expert (coming from the host, or the studio audience, or the viewers at home).
As can be seen from Table 5, both male and female experts are rarely criticized or disagreed with (none of this occurred in more than 4% of the cases). To assess gender differences in these criteria we computed a combined ordinal criticism-disagreement measure wherein any disagreement or criticism gains one point and each expert gains as many points as s/he was criticized or disagreed with. Gender differences in this measure are not significant {Z=0.4, P>.05}. Thus, we can say that there is no indication of different treatment to experts in talk shows as a function of the expert's gender.


As predicted, men experts outnumber women experts in talk shows. The gender distribution in our dataset (1.7 men for every woman) is quite similar to what was found in other popular genres (Glascock, 2001). However, male experts do not receive a more favorable treatment from the host and the audience during the program. As expected, male experts are more likely to talk about security, politics and economy and less likely to give advice on beauty, fashion and child care. The fact that male experts are older and more senior than female experts contradicts some of the results of studies regarding the professional-academic background of scientists in fictional programming (Dudo et al., 2011; Long et al., 2010), but it is in line with gender distinctions in other TV formats – specifically the tendency of female characters to be younger and less senior in their position (Signorielli, 2012). The differentiation of discussion topics across gender lines that we found in talk shows is in line with the results of studies that examined the distribution of occupations among fictional TV characters and concluded that even though gender gaps are closing in recent years they have not vanished altogether (Collins, 2011; Mager & Helgeson, 2011).
Thus, the picture – when it comes to the comparison of gender differences across the fictional/non-fictional genre axis - is that there are more similarities than differences across formats. To an extent, the depiction of women experts in talk shows as younger and not as senior as male counterparts, replicates a pattern known from popular fictional programming (Glascock, 2001; Signorielli, 2012) more than it is consonant with the representation of scholars in high-brow science programs (Dudo et al., 2011; Long et al., 2010). This might be the case because the audience to which talk shows appeal is more similar (in SES) to the audience that watches popular fictional programming (Johnson et al., 1999). Yet, as in any study of gender differences in media content any conclusion about the receivers of the message remains somewhat speculative and the inevitable question is whether the effects that we found reflect only what the production views as the right way of presenting gender roles, or whether they reflect actual societal circumstances. Of course, a broadcasters' survey conducted concurrently with a content analysis is needed to fully answer this question, but from a previous British study we know that media outlets select scientists to commentate as experts mainly based on their availability, professional reputation, and capability to explicate complex processes in an easily digestible manner (Chimba & Kitzinger, 2008). That British study further revealed that even though the most common answer given by TV producers to the question whether the scientist's gender is relevant in the decision to invite him/her to the studio is 'no', these producers do admit that physical appearance is taken into consideration in such decisions. If we add to that the common myth according to which, physically speaking, women age faster than men (Saar, 2012), this may partly explain why in our sample female experts were younger than males in the same roles. Yet, the 1 to 1.7 ratio of female experts to male experts in Israeli talk shows expresses gender equality more than the 1 to 3 ratio of females to males among senior faculty members in Israeli institutes of higher education does (Goldschmidt, 2012). The tendency of male experts to be more often than their female counterparts doctors and professors (55% vs. 40%) and less frequently junior academics (27.5% vs. 36%) also echoes the gender reality in Israeli higher education system, where females constitute only 33% of the senior faculty positions (Goldschmidt, 2012). Thus, the majority of male experts in talk shows and their tendency to be more senior may reflect not only a trend among TV producers to prefer interviewing older men (who are usually more senior) and younger woman (who are typically less senior) but also – and perhaps even mainly – express the demographic makeup of the academic body from which most of the experts are recruited to take part in the programs.
In other words, talk shows may reflect rather than invent gender bias in senior academic positions. Add to this the fact that (as learned from the aforementioned British study) female scientists less often agree to appear in the media partly due to lack of confidence and lack of time (Chimba & Kitzinger, 2008), the lack of awareness of systematic discrimination of women as media professionals that is widely shared by decision makers in media organizations around the world (Macharia & Moriniêre, 2013), and the obvious conclusion is that the under-representation of women experts in talk shows is quite possibly not intentional.
Regardless of reason, our results confirm that the symbolic annihilation of scholarly women from the popular media (see Tuchman, 1978) exists in talk shows mainly in the form of omission (fewer female experts appear in the programs). There are no signs of condemnation and when it comes to trivialization the results are mixed: on the one hand female experts are not contested more often than male counterparts; on the other hand, they are over-represented in low-brow topics such as body grooming. The last finding is in line with the often heard feminist critique of popular programming for discouraging young female viewers, who (contrary to males) lack role models of their own gender, from attempting to climb higher in the academic ladder (Durkin, 2011). Against this backdrop, the fact that women experts, who do take part in talk shows, are not criticized or disagreed with more often than male experts are, transmits an encouraging cultivation message to the viewers regarding the capability of women to become esteemed knowledge authorities. The representation of "hard core" scientists (physicists, chemists, etc.) in talk shows is miniscule regardless of gender (less than 2% of the experts). This low frequency is similar to findings of studies concerning the prevalence of scientists in fictional programming (Dudo et al., 2011), which concluded that the meager exposure of scientific occupants on successful TV shows is considerably limiting the capability of science to reach out to larger publics. Our study reveals that while talk shows refrain from inviting "hard core" scientists to the studio in large numbers there is no connection between the expert's gender and his chances of being one of the few "hard core scientists" who do take part in the program.

Cultural Considerations, Study Limitations and Suggestions for Further Studies

In the absence of previous studies of similar content with which our findings can be compared, no claim concerning persistent tendencies can be made. In the Israeli context, the lower prevalence of women experts, their tendency to commentate on traditional feminine areas of expertise (body grooming, child care), and the fact they are not criticized or disagreed with more frequently than male experts are together portray a society in transition, where expressions of egalitarianism alongside traditional stereotypes coexist in the media just like they do in the parliament (Knesset – Heb.), which hosts concurrently a zealous group of feminist politicians and an active family values political club that aims to assist women in actualizing themselves as homemakers. In other words, the results of the content analysis portray cultural trends (Greenberg, 1980, p. XII), a fact which serves as raison d'être for this work, even without a proof of effect, but at the same time limits the validity of the findings to mixed transitional societies such as Israel. In countries such as Slovakia and Bulgaria, where the educational level of women, their economic status and political success (compared to men) is more or less similar to the situation in Israel (Best and Worst Places for Women, 2011), we may detect similar trends in the appearance of women in prestigious roles in talk shows.
Beyond the need to replicate the study to ascertain the consistency of the findings across time, conducting interviews with media producers is recommended to gain a better understanding of the decision to invite (or not to invite) men (or women) experts to commentate in TV programs. Audience studies of talk shows viewers would allow bracing the assumption that a repetitive presentation of gender differences among experts, who participate in popular programs, fortifies a gendered image of authorized knowledge. Yet, with all due respect that audience studies deserve, one should not forget that a work like ours which examines the relationships between different aspects of message variables related to gender expands our understanding of the representation of gender roles in the media in a meaningful way (Neuendorf, 2011, p. 278) and improves our ability to grasp the complex interaction between media and gender.


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