Women Journalists in the European Integration Process: A Survey

<font size="3">Women Journalists in the European Integration Process: </font>

<font size="3">A Survey by the European Federation of Journalists</font>

Europe, the media and gender rights are on the move. Ten years after the UN World Conference on Women in Beijing, which adopted a programme for equality in the media we still face severe changes in the European media landscape due to the European integration process. Hence the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) launched a survey on ‘Women Journalists in the European Integration Process’.

The survey forms part of the plan of action for gender rights within the EFJ/IFJ and is a follow up to the EFJ gender seminar on ‘Women Journalists in the European Integration Process’ in May 2005 in Cyprus. The survey aims to analyse the impact of current changes in the European media on women journalists, to recognise gender rights, to empower women journalists for change and to support the unions in their efforts to achieve gender equality.

Background: Low Priority for Gender Issues

Worldwide, about 40 per cent of the journalists are women and in some countries, for instance in parts of Central and Eastern Europe, women make up the majority of working journalists. But despite the increasing number of women in the media, they continue to face many problems in the profession. The IFJ survey of 2001 shows that women journalists worldwide struggle with similar disadvantages in the job: they usually work in less well-paid and secure positions; they lack influential networks; they have to reconcile work and family and they have to contend with discriminating stereotypes in their profession and in media portrayal. Further, the unions generally don’t prioritise gender issues and women’s interests.

The media landscape in a growing and integrating Europe shows significant tendencies towards strong media concentration, both in the established EU region and – because of the expansion of western capital – in the new east European member countries. This economic process affects the work of journalists in a variety of ways including: rationalisation of editorial processes; decreasing social protection; declining number of jobs; transformation of employment contracts into freelance contracts; loss of author’s rights in case of multiple use of journalistic products and reduction in media diversity. Concurrently there are cuts in the system of social security and a decreasing influence of unions. This situation poses a challenge for gender policy.

Only journalists’ unions which themselves empower women will perceive women’s issues as integral to union policy. But even EFJ-member unions fail to pay much attention to or fight for women’s interests. While they do discuss changes in the media in general, they neglect the situation of female journalists. Thus, the structural problems within the unions reflect those that women journalists experience in the workplace. Within the profession and in the unions there is a tendency to neglect women’s lifestyles and goals, their qualifications and their potential for promotion to decision-making positions. Or else, such matters are compartmentalised as special women’s topics instead of integrated into usual business.

Assumptions and Questions

Our discussions brought up a variety of assumptions and questions on behalf of women journalists:

  • Media globalisation within Europe initiates a change of work patterns, such as increasing freelance work or work on demand which particularly affects women journalists. Are women more flexible? Which best practice examples show how to cope with the disadvantages?
  • Cuts in social benefits and social security make the reconciliation of work and family more difficult. How can we lobby for parents, since European countries worry about low birth rates? Can the economy still afford to ignore the qualifications and the potential of professionals who are mothers? 
  • Unions have an increasingly hard time defending the economic, social and professional standards of journalists and do not prioritise gender issues or the interests of women journalists. How can we effectively raise our voices in our unions? 
  • There is feminisation of the profession, particularly in some eastern European countries. We face problems such as lowering wages and reputation of the profession. But on the other hand, can we take advantage of a potentially higher influence of women in the media? 
  • In Eastern Europe women – particularly young women – are not involved in the old networks. They may represent a source for democratisation in the media. How can we strengthen them by trainings and a visiting program? 
  • We observe portrayal of women which emphasises the conventional role model rather than role models of women coping with changes in society. Fair portrayal of women is a part of quality in the media. Therefore gender trainings are recommended.

Using as a basis the IFJ survey of 2001 on the status of women journalists ‘Equality and Quality: Setting Standards for Women in Journalism’, the current survey will provide comparable data on:

- the gender situation in journalism, journalists’ unions and portrayal in the media
- the impact of the EU-Integration process on gender equality in the media
- best practice examples on how European unions promote equality.

The target group is European affiliates of the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) in 33 countries. The results will be presented at the EJF annual meeting in April 2006.

Contact person: Annegret Witt-Barthel