Women in STEM representation on late night television (or lack thereof)

Women in STEM representation on late night television (or lack thereof)

If I gave you 30 seconds to name five famous (living) scientists, who would be on the list? Most likely, there’d be Bill Nye and Neil deGrasse Tyson. Who else? Stephen Hawking? Brian Greene?

This isn’t a new problem. We started this podcast because of the lack of female STEM representation in the media. However, data nerd that I am, I wanted to finally put some numbers behind this claim. This past weekend I scoured guest lists from six late night television shows over the past 4 years. The conclusion? Not good…

I analyzed all episodes of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert (300), The Late Late Show with James Corden (296), The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon (631), and Late Night with Seth Meyers (495). I then included episodes from Jimmy Kimmel Live (880) and Conan O’Brien (808) starting from 2012. All the data came from official websites and Interbridge Late Night Lineups. Wildlife experts like Jack Hanna were included. Fake experts like Dr. Phil and Dr. Oz were not.

After several days of tabulation and furious googling, here’s what I found. The below graph represents the number of STEM guest appearances per episode. The higher the number the better. To think of it another way, one STEM guest appears every 10 episodes on a Colbert show, and every 50 episodes for Seth Meyers.

So…. not great. But props to Stephen Colbert and Conan O’Brien for trying. (Sorta.)

Now, what about female representation amongst these STEM guests? Prepare yourself. This is a breakdown of STEM appearances by gender. Yes, this is a small sample size, and yes women are underrepresented across all/most STEM fields. But this is pretty bad. Corden, Meyers, and Kimmel you’re on notice.

Kudos to Conan for having the highest percentage of women. We’ll overlook the fact that one guest (Dr. Jennifer Berman) is a sex expert and another (Dr. Clio Cresswell) is a professor studying mathematics and sex.

Is anyone really surprised by this? I’m not. Booking agents, if you are in need of a STEM guest, might I suggest a woman? We do know things too. Next time you want to get Neil deGrasse Tyson on, maybe choose one of our wonderful guests instead:

Emily Calandrelli (@TheSpaceGal) – Space

Tara Shears (@TaraShears)- Particle Physics

Marah Hardt (@Marahh20)- Marine Biology/Sustainability

And on the off-chance that you want to talk about drones and robots, I volunteer as tribute (@themumuxu).


P.S. For those curious, here is a look at the raw numbers. Columns three and four are the total number of appearances by men and women in STEM. The last two columns are the number of different guests that have made appearances.

And here are all the STEM guests from this analysis. Bolded and highlighted are the women.