Only one in three chart-topping podcast hosts are women

Jon Favreau, Jon Lovett, Tommy Vietor, and Daniel Pfeiffer from Pod Save America speak during the 2019 Life Is Beautiful Festival
Jon Favreau, Jon Lovett, Tommy Vietor, and Daniel Pfeiffer from Pod Save America speak during the 2019 Life Is Beautiful Festival
Image: FilmMagic/FilmMagic for Life is Beautiful Music & Art Festival
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Podcasting is still a white man’s game. Of 480 top podcast hosts analyzed by Quartz, only one in three were women. Even more stark: just over one in ten appeared to be non-white.

It’s yet another statistic that illuminates the lack of diversity across media. Comic books, Oscar-nominated films, and stock photography struggle with disproportionate and oftentimes biased depictions of gender and ethnicity. Even children’s books reflect this imbalance.

We looked at the gender and ethnicity of all podcast hosts for the top twenty programs in 18 categories on UK iTunes. That’s 360 individual podcasts, with 480 hosts among them. Thirty-eight podcasts had no dedicated host, like a storytelling program with a different presenter each week, or an investigative news broadcast that features different journalists.

Of the 480 hosts, 33.3% presented as women and 66.5% presented as men. One host clearly identified themselves using gender neutral pronouns. This ratio isn’t consistent across all types of podcasts, however.

Five categories had a majority of women-hosted shows, including podcasts categorized as kids and family, health and fitness, arts, society and culture, and government. The other thirteen categories had a greater portion of male hosts. The sports podcasts in our sample were nearly entirely hosted by men. There was only one woman presenter among them, representing 2% of all hosts.

Looking at images of the hosts, 11.5% could be classified as non-white, meaning 88.5% of podcast hosts appear white. The proportion of non-white presenters didn’t differ between male and female hosts.

While low, this ratio is not far from the demographics of Britain itself; in the 2011 UK census, 13% of people identified as non-white. Nonetheless, the podcasts ranked by UK iTunes are produced all around the world.

A 2016 study published on Quartz found similar statistics for the US podcasting market. Josh Morgan, who looked at hundreds of randomly selected podcasts made in the United States, found 27% of hosts were women. Eighty-five percent of podcasts in his sample had at least one white host, while two thirds had a white male host. Only 18% of podcasts had a non-white host.