Global Challenges Academy

Staff Profile

Professor Karen Ross

Director of Impact


Background and context

Karen Ross is Professor of Gender and Media, the first such named chair in the UK. She joined Newcastle in 2016 from her previous position at Northumbria University and has previously held positions at the universities of Liverpool, Coventry, Gloucestershire and Birmingham.

On leaving school at 16 with few qualifications, Karen trained to be a secretary before embracing higher education and studying for her first degree at Middlesex University (1st class hons) as a mature student. After graduation, she became a youth worker before the lure of further study beckoned and she was subsequently awarded a PhD in Race and Ethnic Relations from Warwick University in 1990. Her first academic appointment was at the University of Birmingham in 1991.

External policy activities

In 2014, she gave oral and written evidence to the House of Lords Inquiry into Women and Current Affairs News Broadcasting and some of her recommendations made their way into the published report of the Inquiry. he contributed to the drafting of policy recommendations on combating sexism for the Council of Europe (2017) and has been a reviewer of Athena Swan charter award applications for AdvanceHE (2017-2020). In autumn 2023, Karen was invited by the Government's first ever Menopause Workplace Champion, Helen Tomlinson, to contribute to future meetings organised by the Department of Health to discuss the development of menopause policy in the workplace.

Key recent research projects

Karen was Principal Investigator on an EU-funded project (2017-2019) on Advancing Gender Equality in Media Industries (AGEMI) which followed on from an earlier project funded by the European Institute for Gender Equality which looked at women and leadership in European media organisations (2012-2013). Through continuing support from NU and the University of Padova, the project's web platform continues to be updated, most recently through connecting with a current EU-funded project (2022-2024) being led by the European Federation of Journalists which is using the platform's resources in its own training activities. She received ESRC Impact Accelerator Account funding for two projects focusing on challenging older women's media invisibility - see 'Research' tab. In 2020, her Joy project which worked with older women, produced a photographic exhibition which was put up in the Catalyst, Newcastle Helix in March and is now permanently installed in the offices of the National Innovation Centre for Ageing. In 2022, her Blood,bone,crone project which focused on women's experiences of menopause was exhibited in the Long Gallery, King Edward VI building, Newcastle University. The animated film which was one of the primary outputs from the project is now being used to raise awareness of menopause amongst students and frontline health practitioners. The project was further developed into a stage play which was performed as 'Stand by your fan' on 13 July 2023 and the film of the performance will comprise another primary resource for raising awareness. She is also the PI on a film-based project working with a care home in Sunderland, the final film of which received its first screened at the Berwick Film Festival 2023 and was subsequently screened at the Tyneside Cinema in November 2023 as part of the ESRC's Festival of Social Sciences. She is also currently a CoI on an internationally-funded project looking at women entrepreneurs and safety in India and has undertaken fieldwork in Delhi over a four-year period. A series of screenings with women who participated in the work have been organised to take place in January 2024.

Publications overview and contribution to the discipline

Karen has authored and edited a large number of books on aspects of media and popular culture including on topics as diverse as the audience, racial stereotypes and television, and the media and the public. However, for the past 25 years, most of her scholarship has focused on the relationship between gender and media, gender, politics and news and her most recent work has also included work around gendered ageing. Recent books include: Gender, Politics, News: A Game of Three Sides (Wiley Blackwell, 2017); Gender Equality and the Media: A Challenge for Europe (edited, with Claudia Padovani, Taylor & Francis/Routledge, 2016); A Handbook of Gender, Sex and Media (edited, Wiley Blackwell, 2012); The Media and the Public (with Stephen Coleman, Wiley Blackwell, 2010); and Gendered Media: Women, Men and Identity Politics (Rowman & Littlefield, 2009). Her latest edited collection is the first ever international Encyclopedia of Gender, Media and Communication, comprising 260 individual entries from scholars from 40 countries, published in summer 2020 by Wiley Blackwell. She is currently (2023) writing up research for publication on several topics including women and news media representation and her latest paper on older women media practitioners and gendered ageism in the media industry was published in the summer in the Journal of Women and Aging. 

Karen was the founding editor of the journal Communication, Culture & Critique and sits on the editorial boards of a number of leading journals. She is currently a member of the Advisory Board of Wiley Blackwell’s sub-disciplinary encyclopedia series. She was a member of REF 2014, serving as a sub-panel member of UoA36 and was a member of REF2021, serving as a sub-panel member for UoA34. She is a member of the ESRC’s Peer Review College and was previously a member of the AHRC's PRC. She is an elected member of the Media, Communication and Cultural Studies Association and has been an executive member of both the International Communication Association and the International Association of Media and Communication Research. In 2013, she received the Teresa Award from the Feminist Scholarship Division of ICA in recognition of her contribution to feminist media scholarship and in 2017, she was made a Fellow of ICA. She has reviewed for several EU programmes and currently reviews project proposals for the European Science Foundation and Horizon Europe. She has reviewed Marie Curie fellowships and undertaken a variety of reviewing activities for international research councils including those in Israel, South Africa, Australia, Romania, Norway and Finland. She has been the external examiner for UG and PG programmes at a range of UK and international universities. She has supervised 25 research students to successful completion and examined 28 research theses, 25 at PhD, some of which have been international including Canada, Australia, Hungary, India, Malaysia, South Africa, Finland, Norway and Iceland. Since 1995, she has held a range of visiting positions including as Professor and Distinguished Visitor at universities including Queens (Belfast), Potchefstroon and Natal (South Africa), Lodz (Poland), Massey (Wellington, NZ) and Alberta (Edmonton, Canada). 

Karen has written for a number of blog sites including The Conversation and has made numerous media appearances including Woman’s Hour, TalkRadio and Deutsche Welle's news and current affairs programme.

Roles and responsibilities: Director of Impact, School of Arts and Cultures

Google Scholar: Click here.


Research activities

Karen’s broad research interests are around the relationships between gender and media, both in terms of representation and production. Much of her work has focused on the particular relations between women politicians and journalists, exploring their views on their own representation and the forms of relationship they have cultivated with lobby and local journalists. Whilst her early work looked exclusively at traditional media such as TV, radio and the press, her more recent research has also focused on social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter (X), exploring the ways in which women and men politicians narrate themselves when they have control over content and style.

Her book, Women, Politics, Media (2002) was the first full-length monograph to explore this particular set of relations outside the US context and the sequel to that foundational text, Gender, Politics, News (2017) both updates the first text but also adds in important contemporary dimensions including news coverage of women’s campaigns for the top job and the ways in which scandal and celebrity have become important aspects of political communication and political life. In 2013, Karen was given the Teresa Award by the Feminist Scholarship Division of the International Communication Association, in recognition of her outstanding contribution to advancing feminist media scholarship over a sustained period. In 2017, she was made a Fellow of the International Communication Association which acknowledged the contribution her scholarship has made to the field over several decades.

Recent research projects include an analysis of the Facebook posts made by the incumbent Prime Minister and the leader of the opposition, both women (Jacinda Ardern and Judith Collins during the 2020 elections and one of her current projects is another collaborative project with NZ colleagues looking at the FB posts of the leaders and deputy leaders of the five largest political parties during the 2023 elections. During 2017-2019, she was PI on an EU-funded project on Advancing Gender Equality in Media Industries. The project included the development of a web platform and the production of new teaching and learning materials aimed mostly at students but also media professionals. Although the project's formal EU funding has finished, internal support from both NU and the University of Padova has enable the web platform to continue to grow and in 2022-2024, it also benefited from being linked to another EU-funded project being managed by the European Federation of Journalists. During 2016-18, she worked on a community-engagement project with older women to create images of themselves which confounded normative social expectations of older age - see here for the project's FB page. In 2017-18, she worked on a second community engagement project with older women, this time producing a short film on older women celebrating active life and you can see the film here. Her most recent project with older women is Joy, a multimedia installation which was exhibited in The Catalyst (Newcastle Helix), and the virtual exhibition and context can be found here. Joy is now permanently installed in the offices of the National Innovation Centre for Ageing. Karen was also the UK member of a European collaborative project on gender equality and the media funded by the Swedish Research Council (2015-2020) which, among other outputs, produced an open-access publication available here.

A major research thread has been media monitoring of gender and news and Karen has worked as part of the Global Media Monitoring Project (GMMP) since it was established in 1995: in 2000 she became the UK coordinator and in 2015 also became the European coordinator. She led the UK 2020 GMMP team, findings to be published in summer 2021. She is also one of the founding members of the Global Alliance for Gender and Media (GAMAG) which is supported by UNESCO and which had its first General Assembly in Geneva in December 2015.

Current projects include a film-based collaboration with a care home in Sunderland (2020-2023) from which a film has been produced and screened at the Berwick Film Festival and as part of the ESRC's Festival of Social Science, both in 2023. She continues to develop outputs from a participatory community project around women's experience of menopause which so far as generated: two exhibitions of art work, an 18-minute animated film and a stage play, the latter of which was filmed in July 2023 and screened as part of the ESRC's Festival of Social Sciences at Newcastle City Library.

PhD Supervision

Karen is currently supervising 2 PhD students whose work focuses on women's political parties and gender and music journalism.

An indicative list of her most recent publications is included under the 'Publications' tab. However, a full list can be found on Karen's personal website here..


PhD supervision

Karen is currently supervising 2 PhD students whose projects look at women's political parties and gender and music journalism.

Postgraduate and Undergraduate Teaching

Karen teaches the third year module, MCH3080 Feminist Approaches to Media Analysis and takes a seminar group on MCH8057 Media Analysis.

Karen also provides dissertation supervision for MA and UG dissertation students.