Research done by Gender Links and conducted in Southern Africa has revealed some disheartening statistics.
The Gender and Media Progress Study (GMPS) 2015, conducted in 14 SADC countries, covers gender in media content within media houses and in media education. It is the most extensive single study of gender in and through the media ever undertaken in Southern Africa.
There are more women in newspaper images at 27% compared to women as news sources at 20%.
There are 46% of women in management in South Africa, an increase from 3% in 2009.
Sports (25%), economy (20%) and crime and violence (14%) and political stories (13%) are given top priority in South African media.
The voices of spokespersons and personal experiences dominate the news in South Africa: Spokespersons make up 28% of sources and people’s personal experiences 19%.
The source of concern
The proportion of women sources in South Africa has remained stagnant at 20% since 2010. However, there are variations across the 31 newsrooms monitored: The proportion of women sources ranges from 0% at Die Burger to 61% at Mokopane FM. Only six newsrooms scored higher than 30%.
Women’s voices are heard in ‘soft’ beats while men’s voices are in hard news
Women in South Africa speak more about climate change (41%), social issues (33%), health and HIV/AIDS (31%), and celebrity art and media (30%). They are barely
heard in sport (9%), politics (17%) and economics (17%).
There are differences in representation of female sources in print, radio and television media
Television has the highest proportion of women as sources at 25% – up from 21% in 2010 – followed by radio at 22% which has gone down from 23% in 2010; print has the lowest proportion of female sources at 21%, up from 19% in 2010.
The proportion of single-source stories is lower than the regional average but still of concern
Single-source stories in South Africa constitute 46% of the total, compared to the overall regional average of 67%. However, the fact that nearly half of all stories in South Africa rely on a single source is worrying. It contributes to the low proportion of women as sources since, where there is only one source, research shows that in a male-dominated society this is likely to be a man.
Education is key
While the number of women media students has decreased marginally (59% compared to 64% in 2010), the proportion of women staff in media education has also decreased, 50% in 2010 to 44% in 2015.
What’s to be done? Recommendations include:
Assisting more media houses to come up with gender policies that relate to both content and institutional practices.
Networking with other media-related bodies to view gender as a priority in media operations.
Capacity building and training for media on how to create gender aware media content in all news topics.
Peer learning and sharing at Gender and Media Summits can assist the media to learn from the gender mainstreaming efforts undertaken by others in the industry.
This story was first published in the May 2017 issue of The Media.