MEPs urge action on women’s equality in media

By Jane Whyatt

A damning report commissioned by MEPs on gender equality in Europe’s media has prompted  calls for action. 

MEPs urge action on women's equality in media Michaela Sojdrova MEP. Photo: Petr Smerkl, wikipedia

Equal pay, maternity and paternity rights are the positive requirements. An end to gender-based violence, online trolling and sexist stereotpying are also included in the demands.They are based on a 25-page report for the FEMM committee on equalities.

 Female journalists murdered

It also cites cases of female investigative journalists Daphne Caruana Galizia in Malta and Veronica Guerin in Dublin who are believed to have been assassinated because of their work in uncovering corruption. The Strasbourg plenary meeting of the European Parliament is debating journalists’ safety in the context of these and other murders on 14th March 2018. Since 2015, ECPMF has offered help and solidarity to media workers facing gender-based threats through its dedicated Women’s Reporting Point

MEPs urge action onwomen's equality in media FEMM report statistics. Infographic: George Brooke-Smith

Men earning more than their female counterparts is an issue that recently caused an uproar in the UK public broadcaster, the BBC, when BBC China Editor Carrie Gracie resigned in protest and took her case to the Media Committee of the House of Commons. Britain’s National Union of Journalists is in top-level talks with BBC management, and NUJ General Secretary Michelle Stanistreet comments:

Learning the depths of pay inequity that have existed in the BBC has led to a crisis of trust amongst staff – rebuilding that trust requires a significant shake-up in the organisation’s pay culture, and genuine transparency would be a first step in achieving that.

But equal pay is only half the story. In the FEMM report, MEPs’ attention is drawn to  the lack of visibilty of women’s issues in the media and the prevelance of sexist stereotypes. It notes:

 37 % of stories from both online and offline news sources are reported by women and fewer than one in five experts are female. 

However there are some encouraging counterweights to this imbalance. The #MeToo movement against sexual harassment in Hollywood has put the issue on the agenda for media workers, too. Belgium’s Expertalia  and Sweden’s #Tacka Nej  are cited in the FEMM report. In addition, the ECPMF is also involved with the German Diversity Finder compiled by the New German Media Makers organisation (Neue Deutsche Medienmacher Vielfaltfinder)   and the Italian journalists’ trade union FNSI’s gender observatory  

The European Federation of Journalists’ Pamela Morinière represents female media workers in the Europe-wide trade union campaign REBALANCE – Trade unions’ and social partners’ actions to improve reconciliation of work, family and private life for women and men”. The working party meets on March 15th in Brussels, recognising that men, too, have the right to a decent work-life balance. 

The FEMM report’s Rapporteur is Slovakian politician Michaela Sojdrova , with Ireland’s Lynn Boylan as her deputy. In an interview, Ms Sojdrova told the ECPMF what they hope to achieve:

Q:The FEMM committee of the European Parliament has undertaken a research study on the condition of women in the media. What are the results?

A: The study shows some worrying figures and trends. Women represent 68% of journalism graduates but they are only around 30% in decision-making posts in media. Only 17% of women are quoted as experts or commentators on hard issues by media. It seems that media in Europe do not reflect enough the fact the women are 50% of society and their voice is not well heard in media, be it in the content or in internal structure.

Q: Why does the parliament need to consider a new resolution, given that the  laws on sex equality have existed since the 1970s?

 A: Of course, gender equality is one the founding principles of the European Union and a key value of its policies. We don´t want new legislation, we want to implement the rules in force instead, such as anti-discrimination or audiovisual directives. Our resolution is an opportunity to point out to a problem and put on the table some recommendations for media to follow. I am convinced that society deserves more women in the  media.

How does the European parliament propose to enable women to get ahead in the new digital and audio visual branches of the media?

 We don´t have the power to enforce the changes we would wish to happen. We can only recommend, provide good examples, best practices, benchmarks and support to civil society actors and campaigns, On 7 and 8 March our committee on women rights organised a seminar for journalists and inter-parliamentary meeting in order to raise awareness about this issue.  

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