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Global Report Calls for End to ‘Media Sexism’

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By Jutta Wolf | IDN-InDepthNews Report

BERLIN | BRUSSELS (IDN) - A new report finds that progress towards equality of women and men in the news media has virtually ground to a halt over the past five years. In fact, “progress towards news representation that acknowledges women’s participation in economic life remains elusive”. The report calls for “an end to media sexism by 2020”.

According to the findings of the Global Media Monitoring Project (GMMP), released on November 23, worldwide, women make up only 24% of the people heard, read about or seen in newspaper, television and radio news, exactly the same level found in 2010.

The results of the world’s largest research initiative into gender portrayal in news media are based on data gathered by volunteer teams in 114 countries, who monitored 22,136 stories published, broadcast or tweeted by 2,030 distinct media houses, written or presented by 26,010 journalists and containing 45,402 people interviewed and / or subjects of the stories.

The report also shows that women’s relative invisibility in traditional news media has crossed over into digital news delivery platforms. Only 26% of the people in Internet news stories and media news – Tweets combined – are women.

“There is a global glass ceiling for female news reporters in newspaper by-lines and newscast reports, with 37% of stories reported by women, the same as a decade ago,” notes the report.

The GMMP is a project of the World Association for Christian Communication, with support from UN Women. The first such survey was conducted in 1995, and at five-year intervals after that.

The gender gap is narrowest in stories on science and health, the major topic of lowest importance on the news agenda occupying only 8% of the overall news space; women make up 35% of the people in news under this topic, in contrast to only 16% in political news stories.

The gap is widest in news about politics and government in which women are only 16% of the people in the stories. In fact, women are three percentage points less visible in political news now than five years ago.

A positive trend, notes the report, is that over the past two decades, the gender gap in people in the news has narrowed most dramatically in Latin America, by an impressive 13 percentage points, from 16% in 1995 to 29% in 2015.

Globally women hold approximately 40% of paid employment while a large number work in the informal sector particularly in the countries of the Global South. In the world depicted in the news, only 20% of the total workers in the formal labour force are women, while 67% of the unemployed and stay-at-home parents are women.

“The journalistic gender lens in source selection is not only male centred, but it is also skewed towards a certain kind of masculinity when selecting interviewees for all types of views, from ‘expert’ opinion to ‘ordinary’ person testimonies,” the report finds.

Most subjects, spokespersons and experts in the news, women and men alike, are described as senior government officials and politicians. The pattern holds for men in all function types: 12% of men providing opinion based on personal experience, 16% of male eyewitnesses and 10% of male personal opinion providers are politicians – the most populous occupational category for men under the respective interviewee types.

Patterns change for women in the remaining three function types: Female personal experience providers are most likely to be portrayed as parents/homemakers (13%), female eyewitness ac- count givers are most often portrayed as simply residents/villagers (22%), and female popular opinion providers are most likely to be described as students (17%).

According to the report, during the period 2005-2015 the only category in which portrayals of women as survivors has risen – by more than four times –is as survivors of domestic violence.

Women are more than four times more likely to be depicted as survivors of domestic violence (27%) than they were 10 years ago when the statistic was 6%, notes the report.

The GMMP Regional Report for Europe says: “Women continue to be marginalised from the news agenda, mostly not even reaching one-third of news sources or reporters, although they have made improvements in terms of reading the news as announcers.”

Dr Karen Ross, Professor of Media at Northumbria University, who coordinated the GMMP project for Europe, said: “At a time when we have more women presidents and prime ministers than ever before, women only comprise 19% of sources or subjects in political news stories reported in TV, radio and print and 17% in new media articles. There is something very wrong with this picture.”

The results of GMMP 2015 have led WACC and its GMMP coordinators to call for an end to media sexism by 2020. Proposals made in the GMMP Regional Report for Europe to improve women’s inclusion in the media’s news agenda include:

  • Training programmes by media organisations to improve media professionals’ understanding of current and emerging gender issues
  • Issues of gender in/equality included in journalism education and training courses
  • Further research and studies as well as debate and discussion on the GMMP reports
  • Media companies to establish gender policies
  • Gender-inclusive language used in media reports

Stephen Brown, President of WACC’s Europe region, stated: “News media shape the way people view the world and this research shows that women’s visibility in news is no better now in 2015 than five years ago. We need to tackle this situation by engaging men as well as women in news rooms, media management and training for journalists.”

The worldwide media monitoring project is implemented collaboratively with women’s rights organisations, grassroots groups, media associations, faith-based / interfaith organisations, university students and researchers across the world.

“Women’s rights are human rights,” said Conference of European Churches General Secretary Guy Liagre. “The GMMP sheds light on how far we in Europe have to go. Through our human rights training programme and upcoming summer school on women and children’s rights we hope to help close the gap revealed by this important study.” [IDN-InDepthNews – 23 November 2015]

Image: WACC

2015 IDN-InDepthNews | Analysis That Matters

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