It’s a sexist world. Women and their efforts are poorly covered by the media. A recent 2015 report by the Global Media Monitoring Project shows how women’s airtime progress has stalled. In 2015, women were mentioned in only 24% of news stories seen in newspapers, on television or on radio, exactly the same percentage as 2010. Some regions have improved. North America was the star gainer up 8% to 36% over the 5 years from 2005. Europe was the only backslider, down 1% to 24%.
8 March 2016 is International Women’s Day, a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity that started in the early 1900’s. A good time to reflect on gender equality and get women into the news.
The Graduate Institute in Geneva is holding an open debate from 15:00 to 16:30, 8 March 2016, under the title: Gender parity: Game changer or gamble?
Gender news inequality in Switzerland
Mentions of women in the news make up 23% of the total in Switzerland, below the global average (24%) and the european average (25%). The regions reporting on women the most are Latin America (29%), the Caribbean (29%) and North America (36%).
So why do women get so little airtime?
Women are poorly represented in media reporting roles, and this is true in Switzerland. Only 24% of newspaper reporters, 20% of radio reporters and 19% of television reporters in Switzerland were women in 2015. In some Latin American countries, such as Ecuador, the percentages were 57%, 71% and 24%. In the US it was similar: newspaper (40%), radio (67%) and television (33%).
Numbers of radio and television presenters on the other hand are more balanced in Switzerland. 28% of Swiss radio presenters are women, while 65% of television presenters are female. Presenters have less involvement in news selection however.
Digital media is mixed but shows a similar gender imbalance. Swiss women fair well in news Tweets (48%) but less well in Internet news (31%). Again there are few female Internet reporters in Switzerland, only 9% of the total.
The report says “the Internet and Twitter news monitoring results reveal a seamless crossing over of news media sexism from traditional mediums into new media forms. Gender inequalities in portrayal and representation of women and men, as well as gendered patterns in news production thrive across digital platforms. Patriarchal norms in traditional newsroom cultures are replicated in online news production practices.”
It all depends on the subject
There are some areas where women get an oversized share of media attention. Beauty contests was the top category in 2015. 67% of this coverage was dedicated to women around the world, followed by family relations, inter-generational conflict and parents (65%), birth control, fertility, sterilization and termination (61%). Those areas where women were barely heard, seen or read were: gender violence perpetuated by the State (0%), national defence, military spending, internal security (8%) and sports, events, players, facilities, training and funding (13%). These are global statistics. Detailed data at this level was not available for Switzerland.
The gender gap was narrowest for news and stories on science and health, however this topic was the category with the lowest importance on the news agenda, occupying only 8% of the overall news space.
In the video below the Red Cross interviews Natasha Stott Despoja, Australia’s ambassador for women and girls. Ms Stott Despoja discusses the issue of sexual violence in conflict and how Australia is working to better empower women and girls in war zones and post conflict situations.
Australia scores somewhat better than Switzerland. 27% (Switzerland 23%) of news is about women and 45% (Switzerland 23%) of reporters are female.