Women voices in podcasting

Nearly 34 million American women listen to podcasts at least once every month. Although this segment of our population keeps growing, only around 22% of podcasts are hosted by women. 

According to recently released podcasting statistics from Edison Research, women are listening to just about as many podcasts on average per week as men—about seven shows. They also subscribe to just about as many podcasts as men (around three titles per playlist). More impressively, women are typically enjoying more hours of weekly listening then men – 7.3 hours vs. 5.9 hours. 

With all those climbing numbers, why does it feel like we are still not hearing enough female voices through our headphones? 

It could be because many women have self-selected out of roles in front of the microphone.

I recall, a few years ago, speaking with one of the producers of a show for my local NPR station. Someone noted how different her voice sounded in person than when she was on the radio. She spoke about how women routinely will work to lower their tone and register for broadcasting as this has historically been more pleasing to the public. 

This has stuck with me ever since. 

The New Yorker published a piece about this as well – so as not to sound “shrill” women will lower their voice and lessen emotion.

While I’m the first to admit that I’d be more than willing to listen to Laurence Fishburne or Mike Rowe read from the weekly Publix circular, that doesn’t mean that I don’t enjoy many voices in my audio landscape. There is no conceivable way that I could find the likes of Sarah Koening, Sinéad Burke, Ella Mills or Joni Deutsch to have less authority because of the timbre of their voices.

I like to think that there are changes on the horizon, especially as the nature of podcasting creates room for voices that wouldn’t have been considered acceptable at traditional talk radio stations. Podcast festivals like Werk It celebrate the “women shaping the future of podcasting.” Podcasting companies like Dear Media create space for female hosts and voices.

There are many influential women in podcasting and the list continues to grow, which is encouraging. But I look forward to a time where we can say that the number of women listening to podcasts also is reflected in the number of women producing podcasts and hosting shows.

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