Women's voices still missing in media: Gates Foundation report

A report examining women’s representation in newsrooms, newsgathering and news coverage in India, Kenya, Nigeria, SA, the UK and the US reveals a dire picture of women’s under-representation in the news. File photo.
A report examining women’s representation in newsrooms, newsgathering and news coverage in India, Kenya, Nigeria, SA, the UK and the US reveals a dire picture of women’s under-representation in the news. File photo.
Image: Esa Alexander

The voice of women in the news is still undervalued as organisations remain decisively biased towards men’s perspectives, a recent report has found.  

The report, "The Missing Perspectives of Women in News", was commissioned by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to examine women’s representation in newsrooms, newsgathering and news coverage in India, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, the UK and the US.

The report reveals a dire picture of women’s under-representation in the news. In the six analysed countries, fewer than 1% of news stories covered gender-equality issues.

Natalie Africa, senior adviser to the Africa Director at the foundation, said men were given a voice even in issues of gender - a problematic habit.

“Overall, men's voices are the ones always reflected. If it was a level field environment, it would be OK for men to comment, but we have an unequal environment as it stands. Men's voices are given importance in gender issues,” she said. 

“Even though there has been progress, SA leads the pack when it comes to leadership, but there’s no correlation between the numbers of women and the culture. The picture looks bad as men remain experts, protagonists in stories.”

Africa said the lack of transformation in representation was a universal problem.

“Seeing men as the human default is fundamental to the structure of human society. It’s an old habit and it runs deep – as deep as theories of human evolution itself.

Who is heard and who is not defines the status quo … By redefining whose voice is valued, we redefine our society and its values.

"The narrative about women (or absence of it) that society endorses, news media amplify. Who is heard and who is not defines the status quo … By redefining whose voice is valued, we redefine our society and its values.” 

The report aims to raise awareness and help newsrooms to turn the lens inwards. 

“This is a call to action for journalists to challenge the status quo in which women’s voices remain marginalised both inside and outside newsrooms.  

“It is a call to action for journalists to produce news which empowers girls and women to believe that their voice is of value and that they have the agency to change the course of their lives, just as women role models have done before them and continue to do today. After all, self-worth is socialised,” says the report.  

Across the researched countries, there is no winner when it comes to improving the gender representation of women in news organisations or their visibility in the news.  

“South Africa performs better than the other five countries in terms of gender diversity in the workplace. The UK performs slightly better relative to other countries in terms of the share of women in newsgathering and in outputs.

“India and Nigeria have significant challenges in relation to most measures compared with the other four countries.  

“Evidence from five of the six countries suggests that the more biased towards men a society is in its expressed social norms, the smaller women’s share of quoted voice in the news is,” says the report.

It recommends that newsrooms increase the proportion of women protagonists in agenda-setting news beats: "Set targets for women protagonists in the political and government news genre." 

TimesLIVE


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