It has been 10 years since the last Glass Ceiling survey, a research project into how women fare in South Africa’s media.
Undertaken by the South African National Editors Forum and Gender Links, the results show “dramatic shifts in the race and gender composition of media houses since 2006”, but also reveal new threats to women in media, particularly “underlying sexism”.
The latest research, Glass Ceilings: Women in South African media houses, 2018, is launching today. The survey was country wide with the biggest number of respondents from South African media than in the past online surveys: a total of 201 journalists/editors filling out the perceptions survey, 47 companies collaborating in the institutional survey, providing data for over 10 000 staff, while 10 senior women journalists tell their stories about their particular experiences of sexism in the newsroom.
Researchers Dr Glenda Daniels, a member of the Sanef sub-committee on diversity and associate professor of media studies at Wits, and head of GenderLinks, Colleen Lowe-Morna, say cyber misogyny is “one of the ugliest forms of sexism being used to try and silence media women” and that this is a trend revealed by the research. But, they point out, “the media is operating in a climate of the #MeToo movement globally and the #Totalshutdown movement nationally, which has seen an increased assertiveness from women about sexism and patriarchal domination”.
Daniels and Lowe-Morna point use as an example of cyber misogyny that of one of the country’s most senior women editors, Ferial Haffajee, who gave “chilling testimony” on her experiences. “Cyber misogyny may just be emerging, but like the speed of the social media that spawned it, is guaranteed to spiral out of control if not addressed seriously,” the researchers believe.
Sadly, 91% of the media houses surveyed reported having to deal with sexual harassment cases too. “Countless first-hand accounts in the report attest to sexist attitudes and practices at work and in the field,” says Daniels. “The SABC has set up a commission of inquiry into sexual harassment. But respondents agreed that race, growing audiences, reaching new audiences and beating competitors are a much higher priority at the moment than gender.”
The study, funded by the Media Development and Diversity Agency, was designed to look into gender equality in media, and to assess progress in transforming work culture in the media from a gender perspective, and measure the gender gap in earnings in the media. Responses came from 45 community media; 13 private and one public media house, and the South Africa Broadcasting Corporation (SABC).
While the good news is that black men now comprise half of top media managers, the proportion of black women in top media management has increased fivefold but is still 20 percentage points lower than black men. “Black women, who comprise 46% of the population, constitute 40% of senior managers in the media, suggesting that change is on the way,” says Lowe-Morna.
On the flipside, the number of white men (46% in 2006) in top management has dropped to 14%, but is still more than double that of white women. “White women in top management have dropped from 23% to 6% over the same period,” says Daniels. “There are still more than double the proportion of white men (14%) to white women (6%) in top management in the media.”
A total of 24 of the media houses surveyed have between 50%-85% women. The bigger news media in South Africa are in this league of 50% women and above. Media 24 has 57% women, followed by Tiso Black Star (54%); the Mail&Guardian (52%) and the SABC (50%).
There has been an increase in women middle managers, from 47% to 52%. These are assistant editors, news presenters/anchors, correspondents, designers and producers. But there has also been a decline in women skilled technical and academically qualified workers (such as reporters and sub-editors) from 51% to 38%. “This may reflect the general decimation of these core foot soldiers as new media takes over the mainstream media,” Daniels points out.
The bad news is there is a widening gender pay gap, the result of “fewer senior and top managers and a growing throng of junior cadets running the social media platforms of media houses”.
And the conclusions reached? There needs to be greater ownership and control of the media by women, especially black women; all media adopting gender and diversity policies; setting targets for achieving parity at all levels; banning sexism; calling out “mansplaining”; revealing and closing the gender wage gap; opening spaces for women to speak out; family friendly practices; self- monitoring and reporting.