Women In Global Media, Let's Talk More About That!
The media and film industry has come a long way when it comes to the representation of women, however, I am pretty sure we can all agree that the majority of what we watched was based on the idea of: “a woman needs a man to save her”. Whether it was the Disney movies we watched, soap operas, or even the commercials, women are often portrayed as “weak” and incapable of achieving what they want to achieve without having a man by their side.
Children are the most influenced by these representations of gender stereotypes, not only do they start basing their preferences on what they see as being appropriate for their gender but it massively affects their attitudes and perception of who they are, the ones around them, and what they should aim for in their lives. All based on their gender of course.
Obviously, the feminist movement has changed a lot of societal standards and beliefs surrounding women in all areas of life in the past couple of years. Today, women are active in all sectors and economic industries and the world has changed in a sense that societies progressed towards liberal movements that support women. However, the pace is still stunted as these industries, and specifically, the media-related ones, continue to be male-dominated and women still face difficulties throughout their careers, especially when it comes to claiming high positions or having their opinions be voiced out on important global topics. It’s important for us to celebrate the progress and achievements that have occurred in our Favour thus far, but it's equally crucial to understand that we have yet to do more, stand our grounds, and accelerate the progress. It is fair to say that we are past the “spread awareness” stage and it’s time to layout an action plan and act upon it. Let’s take a quick look at how much women are active and recognized in the media industry in 2021 across some different regions:
1. In the US, women are featured in expert news sources only 34% of the time than men.
According to the Women’s Media Center and the 2021 Media Gender Gap Report, 65% of expert news and resource credits are given to men in the USA. The lack of inclusions of women in serious topics and debates has led to harsh consequences of devaluing their contributions and research. 31% of the newspaper headlines regarding global issues are written by women and 37% of American politics coverage related to elections were covered by women. Female experts often face false credibility accusations and great disrespect across the media platforms, especially when they display
assertiveness and “male-like characteristics”. This ties back to the societal standards of how a woman should behave and act, and while men experts are often praised for their intellectuality and debate skills, women are often shunned for it and made to believe that if they display any sort of “Dominance” Then they lose their femininity and no longer qualify to be respected by others.
2. In India, the news coverage featuring women rounds up to 14%.
The issue of not displaying women’s perspectives on social issues or important global events has heavily contributed to the regular dismay of women’s voices when it comes to speaking out on social justice issues. The Global Media Monitoring Project has conducted extensive research in India and confirmed that in 2020 the percentage of news coverage in traditional media which features women has dropped by 7% since 2015 and we have yet to wait for the 2021 annual report to come out. We have seen this over and over again with the wage gap, body rights, and many other injustices that women face in different areas of their lives. The Covid-19 coverage is a great example of how men dominated the media with their opinions and perspectives in an authoritative manner whilst women were only presented as victims of the socio-economic effect leaving out their expert opinions. Women were also more than twice quoted on their struggles of child care and domestic violence but less than 1 in 6 were asked to voice out their opinion on financial and economic situations. Although it does help to shed the light on the negative domestic circumstances that have increased during the lockdown it has increased during the lockdown but it also contributes to the emphasis on placing women in victim positions and having them voice out their opinions when it comes to “household and family” related topics.
3. In Africa, coverage of gender equality discussions is less than 1%.
Founded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, “The Missing Perspectives of Women in News” was a lengthy report that was based on extensive research of women in media. Seeking to understand the status of women in different regions and specifically Africa, the report analysis focused on three groups: journalists, decision-makers, and the public. Not only did this provide factual evidence that screams at us to do better and push for more, but it also highlighted the fact that gender equality issues are not talked about enough in media coverage. Looking across the social media platforms, we often see a lot of activity and movements going on for gender-related issues, however, traditional media is certainly not doing enough, and of course that ties into how the industry is dominated by male authority.
4. Globally, women host television, radio, and newspaper programs 24% of the time
In 2015, the Global Media Monitoring Project released the largest study of women's participation in the traditional media industry, this study was monitored for 20 years and across 114 countries. Not only did the results show that the percentage is less than a quarter, but it also went in-depth to explain how the majority of the presented context was based on sharing personal experiences,
popular opinions, or eyewitness accounts. So, in theory, 12% or less of these hosts are discussing important socio-economic topics and voicing out expert opinions on global events.
This piece was written and inspired by a personal perspective of being a twenty-year-old that has observed and been a part of multiple movements that supports the progression of equality in the workplace. It has also come from a place of frustration at the fact that many still choose to turn their head away from issues regarding gender equality in the workplace, especially when they have all the resources and facts being presented to them about the struggles women have to go through. I chose the traditional media sector-specific because that is the industry that can reach great amounts of people at once and where stereotypes based on representations are created. With all that being said, let’s all make a small commitment to ourselves that we will start paying attention to these details, not only that but to start talking about it more and even aspiring to enter the traditional media industry and make a change. If you are a media student reading this, then take a moment as well to consider how these current statistics will influence your career and what you can do to raise the numbers. Awareness is always the first step to big changes and the more that spreads, the faster the impact will occur.