GENDER BALANCE IN NEWS MEDIA AND MEDIA DEVELOPMENT SECTOR

International Women’s Day (IWD) is not just a day to celebrate women’s rights; it’s an important chance to reflect on whether we, the media industry, are doing enough to promote gender balance. As much progress as we’ve made this past year, there’s always more than can be done. That’s why, for the first time, WAN-IFRA is not just supporting awareness campaigns; we’ve launched one of our own. With #balanceournews, we hope to bring more diversity to global discussions on gender in the media, and act as a bridge between the media and media development organisations.

As the programme lead for WAN-IFRA’s Women in News (WIN) initiative, gender balance is always top of mind. Since its founding in 2010, WIN has grown into a sector-leading initiative to increase women’s leadership and voices in the news. Today it is active in 15 markets around the world – in Africa, the MENA region, and Southeast Asia. Using both traditional and innovative capacity building approaches, we’re working to equip women media professionals with the skills and support they need to progress in their careers, while also partnering with news media organisations to help them tackle business and management challenges in tandem with building their organisational gender strategies.

So, it was a natural step to take things further and create the #balanceournews campaign. The campaign is simple: we’re striving for equal voices in the media. That means that every time a story is written by or about a man, there should also be a story written by or about a woman. Every time men are used as expert sources in a news piece, a woman expert should also be used. It’s not about tit for tat – it’s about making sure that half of our world’s population is represented in the news.

After all, the media is a prism through which society sees itself. If we, the media industry, are not careful, we can unintentionally foster outdated gender tropes and stereotypes. As we’ve begun to notice over the past few years, gender parity is harder than it looks. Despite social awareness campaigns like the #MeToo movement, which brought to light gender issues in the workplace, we’re far from achieving gender balance in the media.

That’s one reason we’re eager to roll out our Gender Tracking Tool. The WIN programme is preparing the launch of a free online app by mid-2019 in two versions – one for journalists and one for media organisations. Journalists will be able to run their content through the app to see how gender balanced it is, while media organisations will be able to analyse large data sets in order to track progress over time.

We hope that this tool will allow the media to measure the level of gender balance in their content from the inside-out as an internal tracking tool. And in this way, we look forward to acting as a bridge between news organisations and the media development community, as well as sharing solutions, innovations, and tools. Our unique position as a representative of the media industry allows us to engage and amplify important global conversations around gender balance.

Moving forward, our objective through WIN is to bring greater diversity of experience to global discussions on gender equality in the media, while continuing to help build the next generation of media leaders. In parallel, we want to help our media partners become champions of gender equality, which includes the essential component of creating gender balance in their content. As history has taught us, it is a marathon not a sprint.

As we look forward to another celebration of women’s rights on 8 March, I’m hopeful that the media industry can one day become a leader in gender equality. We’re seeing the creation of so many solutions from within the industry as well as by industry partners – from high-tech gender trackers, to awareness-raising campaigns and capacity building initiatives, solutions exist for those committed to making the change.

The crucial ingredient in all of this, however, is buy-in from top management to change their organisational cultures and put in place the policies and tools necessary to help media organisations embrace equality from the boardroom down to the newsroom. With this commitment, the change we need to see will be accelerated, and one day soon hashtags such as #balanceournews will become relegated to the history books.

by Melanie Walker, WAN-IFRA

WAN-IFRA invites everyone to join their #balanceournews campaign by publishing stories and features on your website, social media and/or in print to raise awareness about gender balance in the news and gender equality more generally: the problem, the challenges, great success stories, tech solutions. #balanceournews also has a powerful visual for you to share, downloadable in multiple formats from the WIN website (http://www.womeninnews.org).