Strengthening gender equality in media strategies must be everyone's business

caption: Maria Angeles Samperio at IFJ congress in Tunis, June 2019. Photo: Frédéric Moreau de Bellaing

The hard times the world is experiencing due to the pandemic caused by COVID-19 have profoundly impacted journalists. From Nigeria to Indonesia, from Spain to Peru, they have had to change the way they carry out their work. They have changed their newsrooms for their own homes and, in many cases, have had to go out to the streets to get the news with minimal protection.  But what has happened to women journalists? We at the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) ' Gender Council wanted to know how they are doing and the data from the survey we are releasing today confirms what we already suspected: the stress of having to work from home has increased and this has also affected their health.

Conciliation of private and professional life, loss of responsibilities and wages and change in topics to be covered have been identified as the main sources of inequalities in journalism, the only good news being that cases of harassment have not increased since the COVID-19 outbreak.

One of the pandemic's most detrimental effect is that women journalists have not felt close to their unions and organisations with a majority claiming that their unions have not addressed gender equality in their COVID-19 strategies.

These findings must encourage journalists unions and their umbrella organisation, the IFJ, to reinforce their gender strategies and, therefore, increase actions to avoid a situation where women journalists feel helpless.

In the past weeks I have attended different virtual seminars where women leaders from various sectors have highlighted this feeling of more helplessness at this time of the pandemic. However, they have reiterated their decision to continue fighting for equality and have asked all the world organizations not to abandon gender strategies.

I am concerned that this health crisis, which has a hard impact on the economy, is reducing advances in equality between men and women at work and in society. In the case of journalists, it is particularly relevant because it may also influence the demand for women to be seen more in the media, where they are still more commented on than portrayed as pertinent leaders of the different social spheres.

We can't take a step back in the gender strategy. Despite the challenge of this crisis in the economic and social fields, the fight for equality must be part of the daily lives of journalists' organisations. It must not only be a task for women but also for men.

As media professionals, we have a responsibility in telling the truth about our societies and portray it in the most unbiased manner, but this can only happen if we understand the challenges of treating women and men equally. The gender strategy is everyone's business and must be present in the newsrooms, in the relationship with the sources of information, among colleagues, and, of course, on social networks. Today's survey encourages us to continue in this battle that I am sure we can win as long as we all get involved.  

Maria Angeles Samperio
Chair of the International Federation of Journalists' Gender Council