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Where are all the women?

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As funding for NUJ Scotland’s Stronger Voice for Women in the Media project comes to an end, it’s important to recognise the many achievements of women journalists in Scotland, but there’s still much work to be done – by Fiona Davidson, women’s project worker.

Women are still outnumbered by men in the media – especially in senior editorial roles – but women are making their mark and being heard, more so than ever.

While there are still few women at the top, Mandy Rhodes is the editor of the leading Scottish political Holyrood Magazine, Catriona MacInnes is acting editor of the Dundee Courier, Suzanne Lord is deputy head of news at STV, Jackie Newton is editor of Reporting Scotland, Shelley Jofre is editor of BBC Scotland Investigations and Nicole Kleeman is managing director of leading independent production company Firecrest Films, to name a few.

Women journalists are making their mark in the workplace too with more MoCs (mothers of the chapel) and equality reps ensuring women’s voices are heard.  Within the National Union of Journalists we have increased representation of women on the Scottish Executive Council and union/black activist Layla-Roxanne Hill will be the first woman to represent Scotland on the NUJ’s National Executive Council for several years when she takes up her role later this month.

So women in the media in Scotland certainly have a stronger voice, and the launch of Women in Journalism Scotland just over a year ago can take much of the credit for that.  In fact it was the launch of WIJ Scotland that inspired NUJ Scotland’s Stronger Voice for Women in the Media project, funded by the STUC via the Government’s Trade Union, Fair Work and Modernisation Fund.

Anna Burnside by Elaine Livingstone Photography

But there’s still a long way to go.  At our recent “It’s Just Banter” Quiz Night, Daily Record features writer Anna Burnside suggested women in some newsrooms were so used to the toxic atmosphere that they didn’t even notice it any more. There were two men for every woman in editorial roles and in some areas there were no women at all.  But women are now less prepared to put up with bad behaviour and there are many outstanding women in journalism, Carrie Gracie at the BBC and Carole Cadwalladr at the Guardian/Observer are two examples.

Layla-Roxanne Hill by Elaine Livingstone Photography

Layla-Roxanne  Hill spoke of the problem that media and journalism in Scotland, and the rest of the UK, were still very much white spaces in most senses, with three companies dominating 71 per cent of the national newspaper market and dominated at the helm by white men and a research study revealed that British journalism was 94% white.

“When role models are provided, they often revert to stereotypes.  When an expert voice is needed, why is it unlikely to be a person of colour and even less likely to be a woman of colour?”

The Stronger Voice for Women in the Media project may be coming to an end but women in journalism are certainly getting louder and making their voices heard, in the workplace and “out there”.  The Stronger Voice for Women on Air run by WIJ Scotland, BBC and STV was a great way of getting more women to come forward as experts on the radio and TV and hopefully eliminate “manels”.

The extent of online abuse suffered by women journalists is to be raised at the forthcoming NUJ delegate meeting, a safe space to allow journalists and members of the public to report sexism in the media and sexual harassment confidentially and anonymously was launched, and we contributed to new media guidelines on reporting domestic abuse and VAW.  We sponsored an award category at the Zero Tolerance Write to End Violence Against Women awards, ran women-only workshops on freedom of information, confidence building skills, negotiating and Brand Me, on self-promotion as a freelance.

by Scarlet Design Group @ScarletDesignGr

We spoke at the launch of the Independent Community News Network in Cardiff about the important work to improve media representation of women and marginalised groups in conjunction with leading investigative journalism platform The Ferret.  We are partners in an exciting University of Strathclyde research project, Tackling Gender Inequalities in Scottish News with two workshops coming up soon, covering gendered representations in the news and who makes the news, discussing employment patterns and access.

One clear message, confirmed by the #metoo movement, is that just because women aren’t complaining doesn’t mean there’s no problem here.  That applies to sexual harassment, sex discrimination, equal pay and all aspects of discrimination, including racism, ableism, sexual orientation, gender identity and ageism.  It is good news that women are now speaking up but it’s bad news their voices can still be drowned out or that they are just not being listened to.

We all have a duty to use our voice, speak up against all inequalities, keep fighting and support one another.

Thanks to all the great women, and men, in journalism and in the trade union movement who have helped with this project, far too many to mention but especially Dominic Bascombe, Joan Macdonald, Layla-Roxanne Hill, the STUC for making it possible and the tremendous support of the Glasgow branch of the NUJ.


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