Progress for women in
news media grinds to a halt
towards equality of men and women in the news media has virtually
ground to a halt according to the fifth and largest study on the
portrayal and representation of women in the news media.
Extensive results of the Global Media Monitoring Project (GMMP)
released 23 November show that, worldwide, women make up
about 50% of the general population but only 24% of the persons heard,
read about or seen in newspaper, television and radio news, exactly the
same level found in the 2010 report.
Women’s relative invisibility in traditional news media has also
crossed over into digital news delivery platforms. Only
26% of the people in Internet news stories and media news Tweets
combined are women.
The GMMP is a project of the communications advocacy agency WACC, with
support from UN Women. The first such survey of gender portrayal in
news media was conducted in 1995, and at five year intervals after
that. GMMP 2015 is the largest research and advocacy initiative in the
world on gender equality in and through the news. UN Women has
supported the survey twice consecutively.
“The media have the potential to be an enabler of faster, more
substantive gender equality and women’s empowerment, or a barrier to
it. This report is a wake-up call to media houses and newsrooms.
Gender discrimination deprives media coverage of the balance and
authority that diverse perspectives bring,” said UN
Under-Secretary-General and UN Women Executive Director Phumzile
Mlambo-Ngcuka. “The ways in which women are depicted in the media have
a profound effect on societal attitudes and reinforce traditional
gender roles. Women and girls are half of humanity. Giving equal time
and weight to their stories, featuring them as positive models not
victims, plays an under-appreciated part in creating a better, freer
world for all of us.”
“The GMMP 2015 report examined the visibility, voice and mention
of women and men in the news media and finds a sexism that has endured
across decades and geographical boundaries, adapting to emerging media
forms and thriving in all spaces in which news content is produced and
shared,” states Dr Sarah Macharia, GMMP global coordinator.
The publication of the results of the survey point to the
urgent need for an end to sexism in media by 2020.
“Many detailed findings from the 2015 GMMP paint a picture in which
unequal gender power relations are entrenched and validated, and in
which gender stereotypes are replicated and reinforced by the world’s
news media,” says media and gender scholar Margaret Gallagher in the
foreword to the report.
The Rev. Dr Karin Achtelstetter, WACC general secretary, stated:
“News and news media are powerful forces that help shape the way people
view their society and themselves, and contribute to how people act –
at home, schools, work, through to the political choices they may make.”
She continued. “The fact is, the portrayal of women in day-to-day
journalism does not reflect their contribution to society. We need
focused commitment and efforts from media houses, regulatory agencies,
training institutions and civil society to raise professional standards
and truly provide leadership about what constitutes ethical freedom of
Other key findings include:
- Overall, women remain more than twice as likely as men to be
portrayed as victims as they were a decade ago, at 16 and 8 percent
- There is a global glass ceiling for female news reporters in
newspaper bylines and newscast reports, with 37% of stories reported by
women, the same as a decade ago.
- Women report five percent more stories online - 42% in total –
than in the traditional mediums combined.
- News representation of women misses the full picture. Globally
women hold approximately 40% of paid employment while a large
proportion work in the informal sector especially in the Global South.
However, according to news content, only 20% of the formal labor force
are women, while 67% of the unemployed and stay-at-home parents are
- Across the six roles in which people appear in the news, the
largest stride in closing the gender gap is in people interviewed based
on personal experience. Women comprise 38% of personal experience
testimonies now compared to 31% in 2005.
- News sources are often male, and skewed towards certain “types”
– senior government officials and politicians dominate for all
story types from ‘expert’ opinion to ‘ordinary’ person testimonies.
- There are distinct regional differences in the overall presence
of women in the news. North America holds its position as the region
with the narrowest gender media gap (36%) while the Middle East has the
widest at 18%. Latin America has narrowed the gender gap most
dramatically over the last 20 years, from 16% in 1995 to 29% in 2015.
- The near-balance of television presenters in each age category
documented in 2010 has been replaced by significant overrepresentation
of younger women as anchors. However, a severe underrepresentation
(29%) of women in the 50-64 age bracket, and women’s complete
disappearance at 65 years old has currently emerged.