What you need to know:
- In terms of portrayal, women were more likely to be news subjects in stories about gender issues than in stories about politics, which dominated news coverage.
- In 2020, only seven per cent of the stories reported referenced gender equality, human rights, and legislation which is lower than the nine per cent reported in 2015.
- This may be connected to the de-prioritisation of gender equality-related news as a result of the global pandemic.
A newly released global report has revealed that women are still grossly underrepresented in the media.
While some progress has been made in increasing women’s roles in news, findings from the Global Monitoring Media Report (GMMP) 2020 show that women are still poorly represented across news media.
At the global level, women made up only 25 per cent of what people had read about, seen or heard in the news. In Africa, the figure was much lower at 22 per cent. In terms of portrayal, women were more likely to be news subjects in stories about gender issues than in stories about politics, which dominated news coverage.
In 2020, only seven per cent of the stories reported referenced gender equality, human rights, and legislation which is lower than the nine per cent reported in 2015.
This may be connected to the de-prioritisation of gender equality-related news as a result of the global pandemic. Meanwhile, only 6per cent of the stories covered women as the central focus compared to 10per cent in 2015.
This downward trend in women and gender equality representation in media downplays the efforts towards gender parity and can further delay closing the inequality gap.
“Within the media, it has been agreed that we need to address the issue at a structural level. At a policy level. The right policy will change the outlook. We need women who bring up other women. Men have their boys club. What do we have as women? We have to look out for each other,” said Sarah Macharia, General Secretary, Global Alliance on Media and Gender (GAMAG).
On a more positive note, 48 per cent of television news reported is done by women, an increase from 36per cent when the study was done in 2000.
The study also found that women were less represented in Covid-19 related online news despite the relative flexibility of the internet.
Why are we still falling behind?
Despite being a global issue for many years, the continued perception and undermining of women’s ability to contribute significantly to change, hinged on an engraved societal mindset. According to a report by NPR many male actors perceived the Covid-19 outbreak as a time for action and not a time to include women in the process. Subsequently, women-related contexts were neglected in the global pandemic.
This is seen in the lack of sex-disaggregated data on Covid-19 in 23 out 106 countries surveyed.
Constraints in education, access to employment opportunities, and the lack of political representation continue to contribute to the gender gap.
According to UNICEF, only 66per cent of countries has achieved gender parity in primary education. Globally, only six countries give women and men equal rights to work.
Additionally, women only have access to three-quarters of men’s rights, lack political representation and legal protection from economic and domestic violence.
One other factor is the role that the media itself plays in gender equality. Research shows that children are influenced by the gendered stereotypes presented to them by the media. This exposure correlates to continued traditional perceptions of gender roles, occupations, personality traits, and attitudes towards expectations for future trajectories in life.
This gendered perspective fosters a differentiated worldview, which reinforces stereotypes.
Newsrooms setting an example
It is worth noting that innovative strides have been made by some media outlets in closing their gender gap. When the Financial Times (FT) discovered that only 21 per cent of people quoted in their reports were women, they developed a bot that analyses first names and pronouns of the news sources to determine their gender.
Imbalances are flagged with the section editors, who are encouraged to include more female sources.
From glass ceilings to sticky floors, women are faced with visible and invisible barriers in many areas of life. Dismantling these barriers requires the collective effort of society as a whole.
The media can play a key role in changing the stereotypical narratives that exist and contribute to closing the gender gaps by regularly showing women in leadership roles, including women in newscast panels, and calling upon women to provide their expert opinions on the more ‘technical’ topics.
These efforts will create a more gender-balanced perspective in the media and get us a step closer to bridging the gap.