In it, the host questions why it is so difficult to book women on his nightly show, explaining that he and his producers have been striving for years to ensure a gender balance, only to fail for a variety of reasons. He starts by noting inherent societal problems, for example, that 90 per cent of economists are men (for programs discussing economics), and the same goes for many other professions. But then, it gets a little more personal.
"We've also discovered there also seems to be something in women's DNA that makes them harder to book," Paikin writes. "No man will ever say, 'Sorry, can't do your show tonight, I'm taking care of my kids.' The man will find someone to take care of his kids so he can appear on a TV show. Women use that excuse on us all the time."
Paikin also says women tell producers they can't do the show, as "my roots are showing," and claims the men asked to be on never say no, and will "get up to speed" on issues they aren't familiar with in order to be on the show.
The comments sparked immediate outrage, likely thanks to what was seen as Paikin missing the entire point. The responsibility for childcare in Canada still falls largely on women's shoulders (more than twice the amount it does for men, according to the most recent statistics), and in response to online suggestions that a babysitter be provided at TVO for those needing childcare, Paikin felt the need to ask, "Would parents trust their kids with babysitters they didn't select or know?"
As writer Denise Balkissoon noted:
@spaikin Respectfully, the fact that a father needs to ask these questions kinda shows why only female guests have this problem.— Denise Balkissoon (@balkissoon) March 18, 2014
Additionally, the comment about women's roots plays into a far larger issue of appearance being seen as more important to women than to men. As former managing editor of blogs for the Huffington Post Canada, Marni Soupcoff, put it in a blog about scrambling to ready herself for a last-minute appearance on CBC's "The National":
So on Sunday I worried about the fact that my hair screamed I-barely-moved-this-weekend-and-certainly-moved-nowhere-near-a-stylist. But I didn't worry about it enough to turn down an opportunity to express my thoughts on national television. Looking as good as you can is a flexible metric. It can include bad hair when you only have a half-hour to prepare.
Paikin's repeated assertions online that women will not come on the show brings up topics that will be familiar to regular viewers. Last year, guest Hamlin Grange, president of DiversiPro, a diversity consulting company, did some questioning about guests of his own while on "The Agenda," pointing out how easy it is to depend on the same people time after time. "We go for the hits," said Grange. "Those folks we've actually trained to be good guests... We actually train people to be on television. And what I'm saying is... keep doing what you're doing but train a whole bunch of other people."
On social media, many weighed in with snark (using the hashtag #WomenOnlyExcusesForPaikin), annoyance and real suggestions to improve the gender balance. Check them out here, and let us know — in all seriousness, why do you think there are fewer female guests on TV panels?