Newsrooms unfriendly for women reporters?

Newsrooms unfriendly for women reporters?

Date: October 14, 2010
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Media trainers and experts attending the fourth Gender and Media Summit and Awards in Johannesburg have agreed that newsrooms in the southern African region continue to attract fewer women journalists than men.

Pat Made, a veteran journalist and Gender Links board member, noted the majority of students in journalism schools are women but the opposite is true in the region’s newsrooms.

“When we look at the number of men and women students at tertiary institutions we find that the majority are women but when we come to the newsrooms there are more men,” she said

Made thinks this could be because most of the institutions were providing mass communication courses and not specialising in journalism, which means women may choose to go into public relations or other related fields because they pay more.

Blessing Jona, a lecturer at the National University of Science and Technology in Zimbabwe, noted that while his university’s enrolment policy encouraged equal numbers of male and female students, these results are not reflected at graduation or in the field.

“Right now in Zimbabwe we actually have a scenario, even in a journalism class, where we have more female than male students,” he said. “But the shortcoming comes when it becomes apparent at the end when the student is looking for a job and you discover that generally more of our female students decide to go into public relations-orientated fields.”

This is also represented in the Gender Links Gender in Media Education (GIME) Southern Africa, launched this week.

The study is the most comprehensive audit of the gender dimensions of journalism and media education and training in tertiary institutions in Southern Africa, covering 25 institutions in 13 countries.

The GIME report noted that although males constitute the majority of staff in media education institutions (62%), women, at 61%, comprise the majority of students in journalism departments.

Another study, The Glass Ceilings in Southern African Media (2009), found that women constitute 41% of all those employed by media houses.

GIME also noted that there was a lack on knowledge on gender and media issues on the part of lecturers and there was a perception that gender is a “women’s issue”.

It suggests the creation of a policy framework at institutional and work level which would be “essential for ensuring a gender balance in the staff component, and for maintaining gender parity in student enrolments in the media education and journalism training departments at Southern Africa universities.”

Sister Rose Nyondo, a journalism lecturer at the University of Zambia, noted that while her university had 40% female and 60% male students, there still were very few women journalists in her country.

“Most women students, when they come from their industrial attachment, they would say they will not pursue journalism as the newsrooms had male dominancy and there were slim chances of progressing,” she said.

Nyondo also said poor salaries in the journalism industry and false perceptions which regard journalism as a profession for men, also contribute to lower numbers of women in the profession.

Uganda Journalists Union president Lucy Anyango Ekadu said unfavourable working conditions in most newsrooms resulted in women leaving the profession.

“Most women will leave journalism because of the long working hours, lack of training and professional support on part of their colleagues,” she said.

Sikhonzile Ndlovu, media programme manager at Gender Links, noted that lack of encouragement from editors discouraged most female journalists from staying in the profession.

She also said Gender Links would be rolling out a gender policy, designed along the lines of the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development, to 100 newsrooms in the region by June 2011.

The policy is aimed at encouraging editors and media managers to ensure a gender balance in newsrooms, said Ndlovu.



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