Glass ceilings: Female journalists take action

Date: May 6, 2011
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Women continue to be underrepresented in positions of authority yet well represented in the lower echelons of media houses. In addition, they are under-utilised in “hard” news beats such as politics and the economy. These types of news beats are often the stepping stones to promotion into management. Because women are kept out of certain jobs, they reach a point in their careers where they are no longer able to advance. This scenario is referred to as hitting the “glass ceiling”.

In 2009, Gender Links undertook a study to audit where women and men are in the newsrooms in 14 SADC countries. The research in Zimbabwe found out that men constitute 87% of employees in the Zimbabwe media surveyed in this study – almost seven times the 13% women employees. These women are also poorly represented in senior management and there are fewer women in editorial departments at 17%. On 18 March 2011, Zimbabwean female journalists issued a press statement to remind media houses about these disparities and the need to take urgent action to ensure better conditions for female journalists.

Statement by female media practitioners in Zimbabwe

We female media practitioners drawn from the public and independent media, senior and retired female media practitioners, media students and gender media activists gathered in Harare on Friday, 18 March 2011;

Aware and Concerned with the employment disparities and representation of male and female journalists despite female media students constituting the majority in training institutions;

Concerned with the inequitable media representation of women’s issues and voices in socio- economic and political issues;

Hereby resolve and demand that media houses and institutions that we represent, formulate gender policies that deal with and ensure:

1.1 Fair allocation of beats and assignments to both female and male journalists thus ensuring equal experience opportunities for them.
1.2 Equal promotion opportunities for both male and female journalists to senior and editorial positions based on merit and not along gender-biased discrimination.
1.3 Effective disciplinary procedures are instituted to deal with physical and emotional sexual harassment of female media practitioners and trainee female and male students on internship with respective media houses.
1.4 Nursing female journalists are not discriminated against in the allocation of beats, but that newsrooms should capacitate nursing mothers so that they are able to go on assignment without compromising their nursing routines.

2. All media training institutions gender-mainstream their intakes and include gender training and mentoring initiatives in their training curriculum to empower and embolden female trainees to venture into the journalism profession.

Representative media support institutions such as MISA-Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe Union of Journalists and the Media Alliance of Zimbabwe consider specialised training initiatives to capacitate female media practitioners to cover more challenging beats.



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