Gender equality in the media on the European Parliament’s agenda

Ekaterina Iarkova / IFJ

On Monday 26 June, the Committee for Women’s Rights and Gender Equality (FEMM) of the European Parliament organised a hearing on gender equality in the media in the European Union. The main goal was to provide information to feed an upcoming own-initiative report to be published later on this year. The rapporteur is Czech MEP Michaela Šojdrová.

Lenka Vochocová representing the department of Media Studies at the Faculty of Social Sciences in Prague, Donatella Martini, the director of Donnein Quota and Martine Simonis, General Secretary at the Belgian Association of Journalists (AJP), an IFJ/EFJ affiliate,  held a discussion on the challenges facing women at different positions in the media sector and the relation between gender stereotypes and the media industry.

Global media studies show that only around 37 % of stories are reported by women, said Vochocová. “It has been like that for ten years now; we are witnessing a real stagnation,” she commented. Only 17 % of women generally work in the newspaper industry. Females are still mostly seen as more suitable for television journalism, where the ones older than 30 years get fewer opportunities for employment than their younger colleagues. “Older women who are good at their job also have less chance of proceeding,” said Vochocová. In general, female journalists remain in the lower ranking positions. A minority hold senior management seats which usually has three times more male than female managers.

The experts highlighted the need to address issues of sexism and to find tools to prevent it. Mrs. Martini also recommended introducing a legal definition of sexist advertising and establishing a reporting mechanism. As an example of good practice, Martine Simonis pointed at Expertalia, a Belgian database composed of female experts. “Usually, nine out of ten people interviewed are men. And there is only 6–7 % of women journalists in sports. Women are seen as “extras” in sports, politics and similar areas,” she said.

Simonis drew the audience’s attention to the International Federation of Journalists’ (IFJ) campaign on gender-based violence at work, which is part of the Global Trade Union Movement’s demand for an ILO convention against gender based violence at work. The campaign’s statistics show that half of women media workers have experienced sexual abuse, one quarter of them have experienced acts of physical violence and three quarters have experienced intimidation, threats or abuse.

Simonis also stressed the importance of the IFJ’s Byte Back’s campaign concerning online harassment of women journalists in Asia-Pacific. Data shows that almost two-thirds of the women journalists polled by the International Women’s Media Foundation (IWMF) had experienced intimidation, threats or abuse in relation to their work. More than 25 % of “verbal, written and/or physical intimidation including threats to family or friends” took place online.

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