14 February 2019
Glass ceilings research highlights continuing gender discrimination in the media
“Women remain under-represented in the media - both in mainstream and community media”
A Glass Ceilings study, jointly conducted by Gender Links and SANEF and supported by the Media Development & Diversity Agency (MDDA), highlights the fact that, while the media industry is changing with more women in senior roles, inequality and inequity persist.
The findings show that gender discrimination remains problematic, with the long history of inequality between the sexes being the basis. Further, gender discrimination in newsrooms is about power with those in positions of authority usually the perpetrators and those in lower echelons, the victims.
The research, which is now available in book form “Glass Ceilings: Women in South African media houses, 2018”, focused on gender equality and women’s participation in the media, as well as in decision making positions in media houses in South Africa. While South Africa does boast notable media exceptions, it cannot be denied that women are still under-represented in the media, both at senior levels from ownership and Board level to station management and editors, and in the newsroom.
In the countrywide research, a total of 203 journalists/editors filled out the perceptions survey, 41 companies collaborated with HR information in the institutional survey, 18 more on perception questionnaires (totalling 59 companies) providing data for over 10,054 staff, while 10 senior female journalists told their stories about their experiences of sexism in the newsroom.
The research found that the proportion of female senior managers increased from 35 percent in 2009 to 46 percent in 2018 and in top management from 25 percent in 2009 to 36 percent in 2018. But the proportion of women on boards has declined. While the proportion of black women in top management increased from six percent in 2006 to 30 percent in 2018, this is still far from black men at 50 percent.
Furthermore, policies did not promote equal sharing of responsibilities in the home; 81 percent of the media houses said they have maternity leave, compared to only 31 percent with paternity leave policies.
In the three media houses that provided wage data, women earned on average 23 percent less than men, compared to 17 percent in 2009. The new reality in newsrooms is few senior men at the top, and a battalion of junior staff running the social media platforms that are fast replacing the more traditional forms of media.
The advent of social media has also brought about a new threat acutely felt by women in the media – that of cyber misogyny. The research found that 30 percent of the female participants agreed that female journalists experienced cyber violence and only nine percent of the male participants agreed.
The research also found that unequal gender norms within a workplace can compromise productivity, with loss of morale resulting from, amongst others, jokes about an employee’s gender that imply inferiority or offensive jokes of a suggestive nature. Stereotypical views regarding gender can cause a person to be passed over for promotion due to gender. While this happens to both genders, managers more often pass over women for promotion due to preconceived notions about their roles and abilities.
“When we look at gender inequality in contemporary South Africa, we are confronted with a
seemingly paradoxical situation. While South Africa’s transition to a liberal democracy has brought
about a greater official recognition of gender rights, gender discrimination is still pervasive in almost every professional setting, despite many attempts at addressing gender inequality. Newsrooms and the media industry are no exception,” commented Zukiswa Potye, MDDA Acting Chief Executive Officer.
” Women’s economic empowerment and justice are central to the struggle for gender equality and equity. Economic empowerment approaches must uphold women’s power and agency to make and act on their own economic decisions, while attempts at economic justice must ensure that institutions provide fair and equal opportunities and processes (e.g. decent work conditions, fair pay) without prejudice. Women’s economic empowerment alone will not deliver on the goal of gender justice.”
“Glass Ceilings: Women in South African media houses, 2018” can be downloaded from www.mdda.org.za.
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