It will take at least 67 more years to close the average gender equality gap in traditional news media worldwide if everything stays the same, a global media monitoring project revealed.
In 2015, the period remaining to achieve complete gender equality in news media based on the Gender Empowerment Measure (GEM) index was 72 years, thus the 2020 result signals consistency in the slow cumulative pace of change over time.
Malta has been taking part in the Global Media Monitoring Project (GMMP) since 2000 and has been part of the global mapping of gender equality in news media. It is the largest research and advocacy initiative in the world on gender equality in news and journalism and the 2020-2021 report is the 6th GMMP.
The data collected through this project revealed that women are underrepresented in the media and in global news coverage.
Global GMMP data showed a mix of good news and bad news. Between the years 2015 and 2020, the needle edged one point forward to 25% in the proportion of subjects and sources who are women.
The single point improvement is the first since 2010 and is most visible in broadcast news media. This means that at the global average level, mainstream news media are currently at the midway point to gender parity in subjects and sources.
The GMMP 2020 was implemented in 116 countries and the findings were drawn from 30,172 stories published in newspapers, broadcast on radio and television, and disseminated on news websites and via news media tweets.
The analysis shows what has changed in the presence, representation and voice of women and men in the news since the first GMMP was conducted in 1995. It also includes data and analysis on gender in Covid-19 related news stories, and for the first time, the roles of Indigenous people, people with disabilities, racialised groups and the elderly in the news.
The GMMP is coordinated by the World Association for Christian Communication (WACC), a global NGO that promotes communication rights for social justice. The GMMP is a collaborative effort of various women’s rights organisations, grassroots groups, media associations, faith-based/interfaith organisations, university students and researchers around the world.
The report showed that after a decade of stagnation, women’s visibility as reporters increased by three percentage points overall across print and broadcast news worldwide.
In Malta, women’s visibility as reporters stands at 25% (N/37) in comparison to males, 75% (N/113). With regard to presenters, 44% (N/15) are females, whilst 56% (N/19) are males.
Worldwide, “currently, four out of ten stories in traditional news media are reported by women, compared to 37% since 2005. Women’s voices as expert sources rose dramatically as it went up by 7 points since 2005,” the report showed.
In addition, “24% of expert voices in the news are women, which is a dramatic rise from 19% five years ago.”
While these statistics demonstrate a positive increase, the latest GMMP findings also highlighted a loss in the quality of stories from a gender perspective.
For instance, patterns of stagnation and decline worldwide are consistent across the GMMP news measures. Stories are as unlikely to clearly challenge gender stereotypes today as they were 15 years ago.
Following the #MeToo movement, stories on gender-based violence (GBV) hardly make the major news of the day globally, and in the 1% of times that they do, women and girls are severely underrepresented as subjects and sources.
“Fewer than half of gender-specific stories actually highlight gender (in)equality issues.”
The #MeToo movement is a social movement against sexual abuse and sexual harassment where people publicise allegations of sex crimes. The purpose of the movement is to show survivors of sexual abuse that they are not alone. It also helps to improve awareness about sexual violence, showing just how widespread sexual harassment and assault really are.
Women, globally, were also still less likely to be quoted as experts or commentators. The report showed that news websites (23%) and newspapers (24%) worldwide, had the lowest percentage of experts in the news who are women.
In addition, the overwhelming majority of science and health news in the past year was related to Covid-19 (66% in traditional medium, 65% in all mediums combined). The report showed that the meteoric climb in this major topic’s news value due to the pandemic has been accompanied by a fall in women’s voice and visibility in the stories.
“While the news share of science/health stories was significantly higher in 2020 compared to earlier periods (from 10% in 2005 to 17% currently), women’s presence in this topic declined by five points after a steady rise between 2000 and 2015”, the report said.
Although the overall of women’s presence as subjects, sources and journalists in stories related to Covid-19 globally may be higher than in stories that are not about the pandemic, the quality of content from a gender perspective is worse, the report found.
Objectification of women in the news
According to the GMMP report, in 2020, women are still seen, and their physical attributes described more than their voices are heard in the news.
“When women do show up in the news, it is often as eye candy, thus reinforcing women’s value as sources of visual pleasure rather than residing in the content of their views. Women’s images are used to titillate or excite an assumed male audience.”
Victims and survivors
Women and men are more likely to be described as victims instead of as survivors.
The study showed that portrayal as survivors globally has fallen dramatically for men by 6 points across 15 years (from 8% in 2015 to 2% in 2020) while for women, the proportion has returned to the 2005 level (4%) after a steady rise until 2015.
Women are also portrayed as victims or survivors of non-domestic sexual violence, sexual harassment, rape and trafficking much more than men are (women victims – 10%, women survivors – 13%, compared to men victims – 2%, men survivors – 3%).
The local data capture was carried out by the NGO Mediating Women, in conjunction with the Department of Gender and Sexualities, in the Faculty for Social Wellbeing.
The UN Women which is supporting the GMMP report believes that the evidence gathered is a wake-up call to create change in the media industry.
“Increasing the representation of women and other gender minorities in news coverage is vital, not only as subjects but as experts and professionals, as well as increasing women’s leadership in newsrooms and boardrooms. The media can also play a crucial role by refusing to perpetuate stereotypes, such as those that portray women solely as victims or homemakers,” the UN women said.