IFJ calls on unions to confront gender bias in news and newsrooms

Following the release of a Global Media Monitoring Project (GMMP) report that says women are still "significantly underrepresented and misrepresented" in media coverage, the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) is calling for a new debate in newsrooms over how to report gender issues. Research shows that women's free expression is severely curtailed because they make up only a quarter of the views covered in the media.
Beirut, Lebanon. © Samer Mohdad / arabimages.com
Beirut, Lebanon. © Samer Mohdad / arabimages.com

Only 24 per cent of people heard, seen or interviewed in the news are women, says the study, "Who Makes the News", based on GMMP research in 108 countries. The study was coordinated by the World Association for Christian Communications (WACC).

The report finds that 46 percent of news stories reinforced gender stereotypes - for example, the age of women in the news is mentioned twice as often and their family status nearly four times as often as for men.

Meanwhile, expert commentary is overwhelmingly male, says the report, with only one female in every five experts sourced. This is a problem that can be overcome when women are quoted because women-led reporting is more likely to be gender balanced, says "Who Makes the News".

"Bias in the portrayal of women and men in news content has a detrimental impact on the public's perception of gender roles in society," said IFJ.

The report shows an increase in the prevalence of female reporters compared to previous years within traditional media - rising from 37 percent from 28 percent when GMMP put out its first report in 1995. But the current figure represents no change since 2005.

The study also finds that online journalism "is a format in which gender biases become not only more visible but even more concentrated than in the traditional news media."

IFJ congratulated its affiliates that took part in the monitoring this year and demanded that more unions follow suit.

"It is time for more unions to make fair gender portrayal part of their gender equality campaigns and ensure that it becomes part of media priorities and trainings," IFJ said. "This must be done together with fair recruitment procedures, equal access to leadership position and promotion, and equal treatment for everyone in the newsroom."

GMMP monitored more than 1,300 news outlets, 17,795 news stories and more than 38,000 news subjects. It is the largest and longest running research and advocacy initiative on fair and balanced gender representation in news media.

"Who Makes the News" is available in English, French, Spanish and Arabic.