Friday, 30 May 2014

Women in Media, Lost Voices …

“The media's the most powerful entity on earth. They have the power to make the innocent guilty and to make the guilty innocent, and that's power, because they control the minds of the masses.” Malcolm X

The role played by media in directing the people and influencing their attitudes is undoubtedly a paramount one. We spent a big chunk of our time watching television, surfing the internet or reading journals. Media became a busy platform where opinions are shared and policies are tested.

Although media is supposed to be a sincere mirror to the society, this is barely a truth: women are sorely under-represented in media. According to Global Report on the Status of Women in the News Media, Women represent only a third (33.3%) of the full-time journalism workforce in the companies surveyed. Women’s under-representation in the news media is especially pronounced in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Malawi and Zimbabwe where women total 15%, 27% and 27%, respectively. Some attribute the pervasively low representation of women in media to the “glass ceiling” factor where qualified women who possess skills and experience for advancement are blocked in their upward mobility by factors such as institutionalized prejudices. Women are collectively outnumbered by men, whether as paid full-time, freelance writers, online, in print or on air – or as citizen journalists or as non-paid commentators, according to The Status of Women in the U.S. Media 2014 by Women’s Media Center.

Julie Burton, the president of the Women’s Media Center expressed her annoyance of the previous figures, “The media is failing women on nearly every platform and the numbers underscore that we need to be better,”, she also reiterated that the under-representation of women is not a true indicator of the actual status of women, “That doesn't tell the whole story and that doesn't reflect our country, which is a diverse country,”

Christiane Amanpour, the Chief International Correspondent for CNN and host of CNN International's nightly interview program Amanpour, tackled the issue of women’s representation in media, “Women still have to face very difficult threats, very difficult situations of abuse, very difficult situations of intimidation and out and out being banned from taking part in the field of journalism. It is still a difficult world”, but she kept on encouraging women in underprivileged areas to have the faith in themselves and their work, “Those of you women around the world who are determined, and no matter what profession you choose, who are determined to make it and battle the odds and make sure that you never hear the word NO, that I think is the hope and the optimism and the opportunity that we can benefit from and that we can put back into society…”

The critical case of women and media was adopted by UNESCO, through launching “Women Make the News” initiative. It aims at raising awareness on the issue of gender equality in and through the media, driving debate, and encouraging action-oriented solutions.

Women representation is improving; however, in a much slower rate than expected. Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, UN Women Executive Director, says in her message to the Global Forum on Media and Gender, Bangkok, “We need women in decision making positions within media organizations as well as more content free from gender stereotype. The media must become a force of change and make the 21st century a century for women”. In fact, that message is the sought goal of all organizations and initiatives worldwide and the field of media shall thus be freed from male-predominance sooner than later. Women themselves must be persistent in their vim to carve their rightful place in the broadcasting industry so their lost voices are no longer shackled …

By Ahmed Magdi Youssef

International Women’s Media Foundation. Global Report on the Status of Women in News Media.

Women’s Media Center. The Status of Women in the U.S. Media 2014.

Tierney Sneed. Women Underrepresented in Media Across Platforms, Report Finds. February 19, 2014.

Women Make the News 2014. UNESCO home page.

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