Women not portrayed equally by news media, extensive study shows

Global Media Monitoring Project reveals 2015 findings

November 23, 2015

Prof. Isabel Apawo Phiri, associate general secretary, World Council of Churches.

Prof. Isabel Apawo Phiri, associate general secretary, World Council of Churches. —Peter Williams/WCC

LONDON

Progress toward equality of men and women in the news media has ground to a halt, according to newly released results from the Global Media Monitoring Project (GMMP).

Research in 114 countries over 20 years reveals ongoing severe disparity between representation of women and men in news media, indicating that the portrayal of women in day-to-day journalism does not reflect their contribution to society. The study is GMMP’s fifth and largest on the portrayal and representation of women in the news media.

Findings indicate that, worldwide, women make up about 50 percent of the general population but only 24 percent 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 percent of the people in internet news stories and media news “tweets” combined are women.

“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,” said Sarah Macharia, GMMP global coordinator.

The ecumenical family has an important role in strengthening the worldwide commitment to equality for women in the news media, said Isabel Apawo Phiri, associate general secretary of the World Council of Churches (WCC).”The GMMP report shows us that this is the kind of conversation we should be having while on the pilgrimage of justice and peace.”

The report also found that, overall, women remain more than twice as likely as men to be portrayed as victims as they were a decade ago, at 16 and eight percent respectively.

Findings indicated that there is a global glass ceiling for female news reporters in newspaper bylines and newscast reports, with 37 percent of stories reported by women, the same as a decade ago.

Other key findings include:

  • Over the past two decades, the gender gap in people in the news has narrowed most dramatically in Latin America, from 16 percent in 1995 to 29 percent is 2015.
  • North American news has the highest percentage of experts in the news who are women (32 percent) followed by the Caribbean (29 percent) and Latin America (27 percent).
  • In the material world, women hold approximately 40 percent of paid employment globally. In the news world, only 20 percent of the total workers in the formal labor force are women.
  • Women are more than four times more likely to be depicted as survivors of domestic violence (27 percent) than they were 10 years ago when the statistic was 6 percent.
  • The overall proportion of stories focusing on women has held relatively steady at 10 percent since 2000. Economic news followed by political news are least likely to focus on women, currently at 5 percent and 7 percent of stories in these topics respectively.
  • Women report five percent more stories online than in the traditional mediums combined: 42 percent of news published online are reported by women.

Given these findings, the World Association for Christian Communication (WACC) and its GMMP coordinators are calling for an end to media sexism by 2020.

Phiri added WCC’s voice to that call. “Our prayer and hope is that, by the time we reach 2021, at the 11th WCC Assembly, we shall read a report that shows the news media has adopted a wider vision of equality and inclusion,” said Phiri. “With the guidance of the Holy Spirit, together we can transform the media to make women more visible.”

The GMMP is a project of the WACC, with support from the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of 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.

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Full report from the GMMP

Pilgrimage of Justice and Peace

Just Community of Women and Men

WACC Global