Diversity in Financial Services

The 50:50 Project

Angela Henshall
External Partners Manager, 50:50 Project

By working collectively, we believe we can deliver significant and lasting change in the media.

The 50:50 Project has become the BBC’s biggest ever collective action to increase representation of women and has spread far beyond the newsroom.

It all started in January 2017 on one BBC News television programme, Outside Source. Its presenter, Ros Atkins, explains: “I wanted better information on how we were doing on representing women and I wanted to embed this issue in our daily editorial processes. I realised that the two could go hand-in-hand. The data would be the engine for change.”

The team made data monitoring into their daily processes and within four months, the programme shifted from less than 40% women contributors to over 50%. The project has since grown to include over 500 teams across all areas of content – from news to politics, science, music, entertainment, sport and children’s.

In May 2019 the BBC published its data for April: 74% of teams implementing the methodology for 12 months or more reached 50% women contributors. That’s compared to 27% of teams managing it when they started.

How does it work?
We collect data to affect change. Teams self-monitor their content and use the resulting data to set benchmarks and monitor performance against them. The data is gathered as content is produced with the aim of increasing engagement and motivation so it can form part of a team’s regular editorial conversations. Teams share monthly data with the rest of the BBC in a spirit of positive competition and collaboration.

We measure the parts of content that we control. In news, this means we do not count people who are central to the stories that we are covering on any given day, such as if our reporting focussed on a speech being made by the Prime Minister. But we do count anyone who is helping us to report and analyse the news. We’ve always been clear about one thing: this is not a quota system. The main principal of the methodology is that the best contributor gets on air regardless of their gender. This is about diversifying and expanding our contacts to find excellent female and male contributors to include in our content.

The methodology is flexible so it can be applied to all types of content, across every different platform. For example, it is now being used across some of the BBC’s music programmes.

More and more programmes are showing that it can and does work and that’s been a powerful motivator for others to get involved.

The team behind the project is dedicated, hard-working and really believe 50:50 can make a lasting difference, as well as managing the day to day running of the hundreds of teams they have built an internal contacts database of over 1,000 female experts.

The 50:50 Project has expanded beyond the BBC to include more than 35 companies from Australia, the US, South Africa and Europe who are applying it within their own organisations. By working collectively, we believe we can deliver significant and lasting change in the media.

So, if you’re interested in your organisation or company joining the 50:50 Project let us know.

The methodology of using data to create change can be used by any organisation that produces some form of communication (newsletters, brochures, video etc). Get in touch: 5050project@bbc.co.uk.