Notes 3/5

“Prime-Time Television’s Portrayal of Women and the World of Work: A Demographic Profile”

Vande Berg, Leah R., and Diane Streckfuss. ” Prime‐time televisions portrayal of women and the world of work: A demographic profile.” Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media 36, no. 2 (April 1, 1992): 195-208.

Reading Notes

“Previous Research on Working Women in Prime-Time Television”

  • Has been focused on three areas: “representation, employment status, and sex-typed behavior and psychological traits”
    • Representation
      • Since 1950s, studies have shown that women are underrepresented on TV
      • Virtually no change between 1950s and 1970s
      • 1989 study found that women are still underrepresented
        • (Do I need to read all of these previous studies? Or just take her word for it?)
      • Employment status
        • Women portrayed in “a much narrower range of roles – primarily as wives and parents – than are men, and that men are more often portrayed as being employed and as holding higher status occupations compared to women (196)
      • Sex-typed behavioral and psychological traits
        • Women more likely to be portrayed as emotional, in need of emotional support, sympathetic, nurturing, reinforcing, lacking interpersonal and occupational power (196)
        • Vande Berg and Trujillo (1989)
          • Organizational actions composed of five categories of behavior:
            • Interpersonal function – development and cultivation of interpersonal activities in the organization, which includes counseling, motivating, and general sociabilities
            • Informational function – disseminating information to or receiving information from organizational insiders and outsiders
            • Decisional function – problem solving and conflict resolution
            • Political function – display, development, or use of power to accomplish individual or group self-interests
            • Operational function – directly resulting in manufacturing products, delivering services, or everyday work tasks being done
          • Quoted from pp. 196-197
        • Analysis will focus on “equality of representation across industries, occupational roles, hierarchical position, depictions, genre, and dramatic tone” (197)
          • Focus on activity, instead of mere presence



  • Sample: 116 prime-time TV program episodes from 2 weeks of programming (NBC, CBS, ABC)
    • 115 of these included a character w/ identifiable occupation, performing an organizational action in at least one scene
      • 115 prime-time episodes, 1944 characters, 7601 actions coded
        • Article only reports findings for the 986 foreground characters (character whose speaking/action role “served as an important plot function”)
      • 2 separate analyses performed (197)
        • Analysis of 986 foreground characters
        • Analysis of 6087 organizational actions performed by the characters
          • For both, 6 contextual variables:
            • Industry
            • Occupational role
            • Hierarchical position
            • Depiction
            • Genre
            • Dramatic tone
          • Vande Berg and Trujillo five-category schema used for coding characters and actions (198)
            • “Action” – verbal or behavioral work-related activity performed in a single scene by a character in an organizational context (198)
            • Each action that corresponded to one of VB & T’s 5 categories was coded


“Contextual Variables”

  • Contextual variables were coded for characters and actions
    • Variables:
      • Industry: coded according to 11 major categories of US Department of Labor’s Standard Industrial Classification schema (service; public administration; retail trade; finance; transportation and communication; no industry; other (agriculture, mining, construction, manufacturing, wholesale trade (all of these occurred very infrequently))
      • Occupational role: professionals; managers; service; household; military; other (clerical, sales, crafts, operatives, workers/laborers); student; customer/patient; no occupation; lawbreaker
      • Hierarchical position: “character’s position w/in an organization’s formal power hierarchy” (198); CEO/Board Exec/Top Manager; middle manager; first line manager; upper level professional staff; lower level professional staff; staff; workers/laborers; customer/patient; small business owner; other (position where hierarchy was not identifiable)
      • Depiction: coded according to plot function (positive, negative, or neutral) (199)
        • Positive: “benefitted the organization and its members or the broader society of which the individual or organization was a part”
          • Charitable/philanthropic
          • Sympathetic/helpful
          • Socially or economically productive
          • Friendly
        • Neutral: “displaying mere civility or general politeness with no discernable positive or negative plot function”
        • Negative: “hurt the organization, its members, clients, and/or relevant outsiders, or which harmed the broader society”
          • Unfriendly
          • Greedy/selfish
          • Foolish
          • Malevolent
          • Illegal
        • Genre: comedy; drama; action-adventure; other (including sci-fi, dramedy)
        • Dramatic tone: “the literary backdrop against which the attitude of the ‘author(s)’ toward their characters and their actions was presented”
          • Comedic, serious, combined comedy and serious (irony, dramedy)
            • These classifications will be HUGE when looking at these shows, esp. the Office


  • 2 coders coded character and action data for the different contextual variables (199)
    • Each coder produced a character analysis for each episode (overall summary coding judgement for each variable)
    • Action analysis – scene-by-scene coding of organizational actions
  • Then there’s some numbers I don’t understand


  • I don’t think this study’s results are necessarily relevant to my project. What is important are the methods of collecting this data. The methods may be useful in my own coding projects.


  • Again, I don’t find this section relevant