A Stronger Voice for Women in the Media
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 by certain sectors on what Nicola Sturgeon was wearing when she announced a possible second referendum – a potentially significant moment in constitutional history for Scotland and the rest of the UK, but some saw fit to report that she had worn the same outfit several times previously. And in general, women in politics face greater scrutiny than men about their looks, their hairstyles, their clothes, their shoes, their personal lives and their family situations.
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 show the growing awareness of issues that affect women and the role of the media in identifying the real cause of violence against women, violent men.
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.
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.
Women’s Project Worker