According to Unesco. the study report – titled Global Report on the Status of Women in the News Media – represents a set of reliable and comprehensive data on which to make a clear determination about where women currently fit into the news-making operation, decision-making hierarchy and ownership structure of media companies.
“This publication represents a significant milestone in the debate on gender inequality and news media. It adds value to UNESCO’s ongoing work on developing gender-sensitive media indicators, by highlighting the gaps that such indicators could possibly address,” says Janis Karklins, UNESCO’s Assistant Director-General for the Communication and Information Sector.
The research project was carried out over a two-year period, and sought to offer the most complete picture to date of women’s status globally in news media ownership, publishing, governance, reporting, editing, photojournalism, broadcast production and other media jobs.
More than 150 researchers interviewed executives at more than 500 companies in 59 countries, using a comprehensive questionnaire.
Overall, the study identified glass ceilings for women in 20 of 59 countries studied, commonly visible in middle and senior management positions. Slightly more than half of the companies sampled have an established company-wide policy on gender equity, ranging from 16 percent of such companies in Eastern Europe to 69 percent in Western and Sub-Saharan Africa.
“The challenge for UNESCO”, continues Karklins “is to innovatively factor these findings into its regular and extra-budgetary programming. Clearly, while some findings indicate that women are breaking through glass ceilings, there is cause for alarm that this is not the case in all the countries studied”.
The study also found that all regions except Eastern Europe suffered from women’s under-representation in the journalism occupation. However, the research report concludes, this does not suggest that women have failed to advance both in number and occupational status in recent years. Rather, it means that women are still lacking adequate access to the journalism profession in many newsrooms across the globe.
UNESCO places a very high priority on gender equality. Its strategy consists of gender-specific programming and gender mainstreaming with action in all of UNESCO’s fields of competence: education, the sciences, culture, and communication and information, and applies to all levels of interventions from policy development, awareness raising and advocacy, research, to institutional capacity building and training.
More specifically, in the field of communication UNESCO aims at “increasing the participation and access of women to expression and decision-making in and through the media and new technologies of communication”. The Organization cooperated with the International Federation of Journalists to produce and disseminate guidelines on gender equality in media organizations and gender sensitive reporting. Recently UNESCO joined forces with major stakeholders to elaborate gender sensitive indicators for media.