Gender and Politics: Project Challenges Media to Put Women in the Picture

Although the number of women in European politics is increasing, they still lag far behind men when it comes to figuring in the news headlines say media specialists who this weekend are launching a video toolkit aimed at improving the portrayal of women in audiovisual programming.

“Broadcasters and journalists need to rethink their attitudes on how they see the role of women in politics,” said Aidan White, General Secretary of the European Federation of Journalist (EFJ), which is meeting in Slovenia this weekend where the portraying politics toolkit will be launched. “Media play a key role in shaping people’s perception of political life and we need fairer representation of women in the political process both on the news agenda and what we see on screen.”

The toolkit, which will be launched at the meeting in Bled on 8th April, consists of a DVD (90 minutes of video material) and an accompanying text that raises issues and questions for journalists, trainers and programme makers. Eight selected modules compiling video clips from European broadcasters address gender portrayal in politics from different perspectives. The toolkit is available for free in German and English on until 20th April.

The initiative is in response to growing evidence of media failure to reflect accurately the role of women on the political scene. Although women represent 24 % of politicians in Europe, the Global Media Monitoring Project 2005 report found that only 10% of politicians in the European news are women (compared with 12% globally). Women experts and politicians remain largely invisible and mainly get to speak on specific issues often seen as “soft issues.” They are repeatedly identified in term of their family status.

“These results stress the need for broadcasters and journalists to address gender portrayal from a different angle and to take specific account of the lack of women's representation in the news,” says the EFJ. “We are convinced this toolkit will encourage media professionals to rethink the gender perspective in their work. The result will be higher quality journalism.”

Portraying Politics is an EU funded project. Partners include the European Journalism Centre (EJC), Radio Netherlands Training Center (RNTC), Zweites Deutsches Fernsehen (ZDF), ARD/Rundfunk Berlin-Brandenburg (RBB), Norsk Rikskringkasting (Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation) (NRK), the EFJ, the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), the European Journalism Training Association (EJTA), the University of Malta.