GMMP Results: Glacial progress towards media gender equality 25 years on

GMMP Results: Glacial progress towards media gender equality 25 years on

New data from global research with additional analysis of Covid-19 news

Twenty-five years after the Fourth UN World Conference on Women (Beijing), the news media remain far from being inclusive spaces for women, vulnerable women, and historically marginalized groups, according to preliminary results released by the 2020 Global Media Monitoring Project (GMMP). [See Preliminary Results Data and Infographics.]

The results suggest that “glass ceilings are setting in on certain important news media gender equality indicators, while others are edging upwards,” says Sarah Macharia, global co-ordinator of the GMMP, which has been studying women’s presence in relation to men, gender bias and stereotyping in news media content every five years since 1995. 

The results from 80 of the 120 participating countries indicate that while there is some progress on some indicators, women’s invisibility as subjects and sources in the news is still the norm especially for marginalized women. 

In Latin America, for example, Indigenous people make up only 1% of subjects and sources (persons seen, heard or spoken about) in television news stories despite being 8% of the population in the region. Out of this meagre proportion, only 3 out of 10 are women. 
And, in a year where the Covid-19 pandemic dominated the world’s news, preliminary results show that on the Internet,women are even less visible in stories related to Covid-19 than in non-Covid news, especially in Latin America and Asia. 

Women and men who appear most as experts in Covid-19 televised news are health specialists, but only one out of three is a woman. “The gender composition of experts in the news is partly a reflection of the physical world in which women make up the majority of health sector workers but are under-represented in high-skilled jobs, and partly of media gender bias given that the percentage of women health specialists is higher in real life than women health experts in the news,” explains Macharia.

UN Women, the lead United Nations entity on gender equality, has supported GMMP thrice consecutively since 2010.

“GMMP 2020 picks up a major element of discrimination, telling us that women and women’s voices are shockingly absent from global news coverage. Reporting is not only subject to substantial male bias— it is perpetuating it. This has to be turned around,” said UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka. “The news industry must adopt codes of conduct that define and actively redress gender discrimination and stereotyping, starting with an increase in women’s leadership within the media industry,” she added. 

Philip Lee, General Secretary of WACC Global, which co-ordinates the GMMP underscores the need to study gender in the world’s news media. “Studying how people are represented in the news is important because often what we see is what we believe. And when it comes to gender, rectifying the misperceptions caused by discrimination, misogyny, and patriarchal beliefs can only be done through a clearsighted reappraisal and revamp of news policies and practices,” says Lee. “This is the great strength of the GMMP.”

The GMMP, which is the largest and longest longitudinal study on gender in the world’s news media will release its full and final report this year. The final report will present a gender analysis of the 25-year change in the presence, representation and voice of the subjects, sources in mainstream print newspapers, radio and television newscasts, influential news websites and news media tweets in 120 countries.

The final report will also offer:

  • A special focus on the roles of indigenous peoples, people with disabilities, racialized groups and the elderly in stories published on the global monitoring day;
  • A special focus on the representation of social justice movements through a case study of the GMMP day snapshot of news related to Black Lives Matter; 
  • Gender analysis of change in the specific roles of journalists in mainstream print newspapers, radio and television newscasts, influential news websites and news media tweets across the quarter century;
  • Projections for progress over the next decade and beyond;
  • Recommendations for the media industry, media professionals, governments, media development organisations, civil society, the research community, and all stakeholders vested in gender equality in and through the media.

Additional Quotes from GMMP co-ordinators and pioneers

“Once again, the Global Media Monitoring Project demonstrates the shocking invisibility of women in the world’s news. If some of these preliminary results bring rays of hope – a slight increase in women’s voices as subjects and sources in most media genres, a higher proportion of stories reported by women on television – overall they show that today’s ‘newsmakers’ are still overwhelmingly male. Given the increasing importance and reach of online news, it is quite astonishing that in almost every world region women’s relative absence is even more marked online (Internet and Twitter news) than in legacy media (newspapers, radio, TV) in stories about Covid-19 – a pandemic in which women have suffered disproportionately in terms of job losses, economic hardship, violence and domestic abuse. Whose stories do the media tell? Whose do they ignore? Why is change so slow? With a perspective now spanning 25 years, the full report of this most recent GMMP will be eagerly anticipated.”
Margaret Gallagher, feminist scholar and GMMP pioneer 

“What the Covid-19 crisis has unveiled is the already existing systemic disparities that impact women and people of color. GMMP 2020 has exposed the gap in the presence of female experts in media. Be it media or reality, this finding offers an advocacy tool for promoting gender equity and gender-specific medical expertise in the new normal.”

Dr.  Glory Dharmaraj, US co-ordinator

“The results are mixed with regard to presence of women’s voices when reporting the COVID-19 crisis. The predictable continuity of this pandemic requires collective efforts to overcome it. The media must be on top of these efforts. Its role to shed light on the impact of COVID19 on women’s lives is necessary and required.” 

Dr. Azza Kamel, GMMP MENA region co-ordinator 

“The preliminary results indicate that challenges to achieving equality in women’s rights and communication continue; at the same time, there is a hopeful movement towards narrowing the media gender gap. The results affirm the efforts of multiple global, regional and local actions to influence media messages as a key element in advancing equality. We look forward to the final report.”

Sandra Lopez, GMMP Latin America region co-ordinator

“Preliminary findings suggest gender disparities are shifting a tiny bit in a few areas –there’s just a little more balance between women’s and men’s visibility in the news. What makes GMMP 2020 intriguing is that data will be available in new areas, for example, for stories dealing specifically with COVID, or the Black Lives Matter movement. And there will be specific data on the participation of Indigenous peoples in the news, of people with disabilities, and the elderly.” 

Hillary Nicholson, GMMP Caribbean region co-ordinator

“Preliminary findings suggest a mixed picture, with more women presenting news at the same time as a disappointing invisibilising of women already marginalised including Indigenous women, older women and women with disabilities. The background of the global pandemic provides a unique opportunity to capture how and where women’s perspectives have contributed to the public’s understanding of Covid-19.”

Prof. Karen Ross, GMMP Europe Region co-ordinator

“Canada is proud to be a pioneering participant in the GMMP. Even with global crises in the economy, health, politics and the environment these past 25 years, we have seen how women figure in the news. We are glad to have contributed once again to this significant, ground-breaking research with the hope that women from across the globe will be granted the attention and respect that we all deserve. Our team is looking forward to the final report that is the outcome of hours of work of dedicated volunteers.” 

Veronica Silva Cusi, GMMP Canada co-ordinator

About the GMMP

The Global Media Monitoring Project (GMMP), whomakesthenews.org, is unique in involving participants ranging from grassroots community organizations to university students and researchers to media practitioners, all of whom participate on a voluntary basis.

The results of GMMP have been used in a number of ways by gender and communication groups worldwide, in research, training for media practitioners, media literacy education for media audiences, advocacy and lobbying work.

The GMMP and the “Who Makes the News?” research report have been widely referenced around the world.  References to GMMP are found in numerous resources, from the Arab Human Development Report published by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) to the International Federation of Journalists and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

The UN General Secretary’s report on “The safety of journalists and the issue of impunity” (UN General Assembly, 4 August 2017, A/72/150) cites the GMMP findings as evidence of the persistent underrepresentation of women in journalism and in news content.

Tess Sison
msison@waccglobal.org
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