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Thursday, May 13, 2010

Women’s representation in media is 24%: monitoring study report

The 2010 preliminary report of the Global Media Monitoring Project (the final report will be out in September 2010), which has been monitoring gender equality in the media since 1995, has produced mixed results, showing improvement in many areas though not always at the expected pace.

The fourth in the series ‘Who makes the news?’ used data from 42 countries in Africa, Asia, Latin America, the Caribbean region, Pacific Islands, and Europe to gauge the representation of women in the news, and how women fare in the delivery of news and in journalistic practice.

While there is a marked improvement in representation of women in the news in this fourth report, over the previous one, the largest increase in women’s visibility is in stories on the topic ‘science and health’ which receives the lowest media attention. And while women are visible as givers of popular opinion in news stories, very few are called upon as experts.


* Twenty-four per cent of people interviewed, heard, seen or read about in mainstream broadcast and print news are female. In the first report, in 1995, only 17% of people in the news were women. This went up to 18% in 2000 and 21% in 2005. The report says the pace of progress in gender balance in the news has remained “persistently slow in the last 10 years,” but is more rapid than the rate registered between 1995 and 2000.
* The largest rise in women’s visibility is in stories on ‘science and health’ (from 22% of news subjects in 2005 to 37% in 2010). In reality, this topic receives the lowest media attention (10% of total news stories). In topics that are high priority on the news media front, the increase in women as subjects was much smaller -- from 20% to 21% in stories on the ‘economy’ and from 14% to 18% in stories on ‘politics and government’.
* Further, a significant component of the 3% increase in women in the news can be attributed to the notable increase in women as providers of popular opinion, and much less to women appearing as experts. Men and women are represented in almost equal numbers when it comes to providing popular opinion, but an overwhelming 81% of experts and 82% of spokespersons are male.
* Only 16% of all stories focus specifically on women. Overall, this is an increase from 10% of stories in 2005. There has been an improvement in the ratio of women to men who are central in news stories -- in news on politics/government (from 8% of stories in 2005 to 18% in 2010) and on the economy (from 3% of stories in 2005 to 7% in 2010). Nevertheless, the percentage of stories in which women are not central far outweighs the percentage of stories in which they are.
* Issues of special concern to women contained in the Beijing Platform for Action receive an average of less than 1.5% media attention each.

Of the stories appearing in the news during the monitoring day, 1.3% were on gender-based violence, 0.3% on women’s economic participation, 1.2% on poverty, and 0.9% on peace. ‘Women and political participation’ received the highest coverage, at 3.4%. Print news contained the highest proportion of stories on all five themes, suggesting that newspapers would be the most effective medium for issues of concern to women to find space in the mainstream news agenda.

Delivering the news

* Overall, news stories by female reporters are much fewer than news stories by male reporters. In 2010, the percentage of stories by female reporters on radio was lower than in 2005, a drastic drop from 45% to 27%. Television reporting by women went up from 42% to 44% and newspaper stories by female reporters increased from 29% to 35%.
* News stories by female reporters are almost twice as likely to challenge gender stereotypes than stories by male reporters -- 11% by female reporters compared to 6% by male reporters.
* News stories by female reporters have considerably more female news subjects than stories by male reporters -- 26% of news subjects in stories by female reporters, compared to 19% of news subjects in stories by male reporters.

Journalistic practice

* Almost half (48%) of all news stories reinforce gender stereotypes, while 8% of news stories challenge gender stereotypes. News stories are six times more likely to reinforce gender stereotypes than to challenge them. No conclusions can be drawn on the change over the past five years owing to revisions made to the method of collecting data on stereotyping in news coverage.
* Only 12% of news stories highlight issues of gender equality or inequality. The percentage of news stories that shed light on an aspect of gender equality or inequality in the story has tripled in the last five years. Nevertheless, stories that miss the opportunity to highlight (in)equality issues are by far more numerous.
* Women are five times as likely as men to be portrayed in their roles as wives, mothers, etc. Nineteen per cent of women appearing in the news are identified by their family status as compared to 4% of men in the news.
* Only 9% of news stories mention gender equality policies or human and women’s rights legal instruments. The report says ‘this finding suggests that numerous stories miss the opportunity to create awareness on instruments enacted to protect human rights, women’s rights or gender equality’. It says that this finding also ‘supports an observation by gender and communication groups that human rights, and in particular women’s human rights, are relatively invisible in mainstream media coverage’.

Latin America leads as the region with the highest percentage of stories that challenge stereotypes (14%) as well as the region with the lowest percentage of stories that reinforce stereotypes (24%).

Stories in Asia are almost eight times more likely to reinforce as to challenge stereotypes. In Africa, stories are almost 16 times more likely to reinforce than to challenge stereotypes. In the Middle East, stories are 13 times more likely to reinforce than to challenge stereotypes.

Read the full report:

Forget yourself for others, and others will never forget you.

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