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A Stronger Voice for Women in the Media

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Nevertheless, she persisted

It’s almost 50 years since equality laws were introduced and yet women are still fighting to be heard in the newsroom and in the news.

Women in senior editorial roles are very much in the minority.  Diversity in the newsroom is sadly lacking.  And this reflects in the news agenda, determined by men – often, white middle-aged men (although we shouldn’t use stereotypes).

Women are still judged on appearance and as they get older, they are often unseen and unheard.  The invisible woman is a common complaint, both in terms of recognition of their years of experience and their achievements as a journalist.

Or in terms of being reported, a woman murder victim through domestic violence can be virtually ignored, as if she hadn’t existed, while the perpetrator is almost eulogised in the search for possible motivation by certain sectors of the press.

Just look at the media focus on the shoes worn by Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and Prime Minister Theresa May  – two women who have achieved significant positions in politics yet they are defined by their shoes.  And in general, women in politics face greater scrutiny than men about their personal life and their family situation.

The Stronger Voice for Women in the Media project, funded by the Union Modernisation Fund through the STUC, comes at an ideal time when there is growing recognition of the everyday challenges women face and the need for the media to report more responsibly on issues such as sex crimes, violence against women and its role in educating society.  Recent examples include a new campaigning and networking group, Women in Journalism Scotland launched by Scotland’s First Minister.  Entries to Zero Tolerance’s Write to End Violence Against Women competition of published articles show the growing awareness of issues that affect women and the role of the media in identifying the real cause of violence against women.

But they are not only women’s issues, they affect everyone, men and women,  and it’s important that all those working in the media, the union, the wider trade union movement, management and groups represented in the media all work together to improve the situation

The project will address the key characteristics identified in the Scottish Government-backed Fair Work Framework – to provide workers with an effective voice, opportunity, job security, career fulfilment and respect in the workplace.

The lack of women in senior media roles has consequences for wider society with widespread stereotyping of women in the print and broadcast media, and lack of gender balance on screen.  The use of sexualised images of women and girls is still commonplace and is damaging as it helps influence how women are valued, and reinforces sexist attitudes.  According to Engender, sexism in the media is a consequence of gender inequality and is fundamentally linked to the social value placed on women’s paid and unpaid work, and participation in politics, the labour market and society.[1]

In particular, the lack of women representation is evident at the more senior levels within journalism. This means there is a lack of female role models and a macho culture which is further perpetuated by women as a result of only having male role models at senior levels.  The macho culture is further exacerbated by the requirement at senior levels to work long hours and to be on call on a permanent basis, often incompatible with women’s caring responsibilities.

There are other issues that affect women.  Job insecurity through precarious working is a major issue for journalism with the prevalence of freelances, lack of promotion opportunities for various reasons, lack of female representation on current affairs discussion panels, sexism in the workplace, pregnancy and maternity leave issues and invisibility

The project aims to provide opportunities for women’s voices to be heard, as well as those of men, with a major event planned for the end representing women and men both in the media and who care about the media and the wider trade union movement culminating in a call for action to move the cause forward.  After all, if women aren’t involved at senior editorial level, this can have consequences for 51 per cent of potential readership/audience.  Equality and diversity at the top is good for business, and society.

Fiona Davidson, Women’s Project Worker, NUJ Scotland  email  (07775 795084)

[1] Engender – Gender Matters: Holyrood 2016 Women in Media Watchdog


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