The work of “The Wole Soyinka centre for investigative journalism” in pulling up female journalists in Nigeria is unparalleled with support from Free Press Unlimited. I have seen changes and participated as a faculty and I am very proud of the 33 fellows. It is no mean feat.
Let us get this conversation started by dwelling a little bit on the terminologies in order to keep us all abreast. Aside from the survey report already well enunciated by Adeolu Adekola, programme Manager, Wole Soyinka centre for investigative journalism and the centre Co-ordinator, Motunrayo Alaka, let us take a look at the term Gender mainstreaming. What does it really mean in the main? I
t is an internationally accepted concept to address inequalities between women and men through ensuring that gender perspectives are placed into any policy designs and implementation in any area of field. Women hold half the sky but continue to be emasculated in policies and decision making. Gender mainstreaming involves making policies that cater to the needs of both genders and addressing same in monitoring and evaluation, implementation, spending programmes and promoting equality between men and women as well as discouraging discrimination against one or the other. Gender mainstreaming also seeks to analyse existing policies and redress inequalities where they exist.
Women and men are not the same. There are unequal power relations and differences in resource control and opportunities. Over the years, this has led to the dominant group holding the reigns of decision making. Organisations must therefore consciously work towards improving the narrative by giving opportunities to the gender most discriminated against to create gender balance.
These differences must be taken into account when planning, designing and implementing policies and everyone particularly management and leaders in any organisation must look out for hidden gender inequalities. Management must take the lead in banishing gender bias by promoting gender balance as role models. Gender mainstreaming helps with the success rate of any organisation, effectiveness and maximum utilization of human resources and funds.
More than just fulfilling a quota, research by non-profit organisation CATALYST shows that companies that reported highest number of women in senior leadership positions financially outperformed those who did not by 35%. In addition, creating gender balance makes news more productive and helps to attain social stability in the surrounding communities. Women tend to bring empathy to leadership while men promote authority with little or no emotional intelligence.
Research across workplaces has shown that businesses collapse where only Intelligence quotient is on the front burner. Women bring humanity and kindness and empathy and emotional intelligence and more often than not, contribute to building a great economic resource with much balancing when giving positions of leadership.
Some of the areas to pay attention to for gender mainstreaming includes but not limited to:
-Gender sensitive language
-Gender sensitive images
-Gender specific data collection and analysis
-Equal access to utilities and services
-Collaborative decision making
-Equal treatment into steering processes e.g. quality management, gender budgeting e.t.c
-Gender specific evaluation e.g. maternity leave should not preclude a hardworking woman from getting promoted. Men and women are wired differently. The fact that the Nigerian police has archaic rules for how women in the police get married or get pregnant is unacceptable. This also applies to some banks.
-Equal pay for similar work e.g. BBC female staff have had to fight tooth and nail to get equal pay with their male colleagues.
Like most institutions, the media continues to struggle with gender equality and gender parity.
Today let us examine those things that are keeping women from attaining their full potentials in the field.
I would like to start by citing the firing in 2014 of the New York times Executive Editor, Jill Abramson the first female to attain the position in the paper. Conversations revolved around why she was fired and the discourse dwelt on the fact that she was difficult and brought it upon herself by demanding equal pay. But therein lies the challenge. Like in everything else that affects women, efficiency and outspokenness is defined differently across genders. A confident woman is considered arrogant and difficult while a confident man is adulated, admired, celebrated and given full compliments.
Let us pause a bit and look at the many issues affecting gender parity in the Nigerian media.
BIG ISSUE: – Creating news for and about women. Women are often eroded or poorly covered in news stories and often not given headlines no matter how big the story. E.g. Most children in Nigeria are socialised through the media to believe that only men are farmers whereas there are many female farmers and in Plateau state for instance, women farm the potatoes. Even with Vox pops, men would be front-loaded on all issues and maybe of ten interviewees, only 2 will be women. This suggests that women are illiterate about the issues and this is untrue.
-Promoting equal amounts of men and women to senior executive positions.
ED Position in NTA.
While I was ED in NTA, there were only two women to five men. When it comes to voting on an issue concerning women or any issue at all, our votes would be drowned. Percentages in management positions are critical for gender balancing.
Active gender policy is mostly unplanned in most media houses.
Equal opportunities employer- How often do the media take into account gender balance when hiring across board to include entry positions and management opportunities.
Scholarship in schools like what Daily Trust newspapers is doing for female medical doctors is a welcomed development. Scholarships for female mass communication students will be a good initiative by media houses.
Opportunities in the Newsroom/challenges, internships etcetera. Give more women a chance.
Support structures for women e.g. Crèche, a well-lit parking lot.
Staying power of women across newsrooms in Nigeria is because they believe they have nowhere else to go. How have they been rewarded by the media houses to encourage them and pull them up leadership positions?
Professional organizations- NAWOJ, NUJ. They need to do more for women journalists to ensure gender balance.
Role play and important desks (In NTA we had women who were given robust desks to cover and they did it with great aplomb. Foreign news correspondent, Lola Alakija, Petroleum correspondent, Chris Anyanwu, Defence correspondent, Muni Adebayo) Lets not keep them at fashion and cooking. Let us give them a chance to lead other defining beats.
Are women ready? Do they lean in? Or do they shy away from leadership positions. They must be ready, learn and step in.
Sexual harassment is an obstacle and must be looked into.
Placing women who understand gender mainstreaming at the top often ensures women issues are covered and more women come into the Industry.
Ownership of media institutions by women is important. Finance in this respect is a great obstacle.
Dress code. Women and men must dress as they wish to be addressed.
Here are good practices of gender mainstreaming from across the world. The Zimbabwean, a Zimbabwean newspaper committed in 2005 to giving women more voices and believe me it has opened a leeway for an economic force and has had a life changing impact. Trisha Mbanga is co-founder and believes a lot has been achieved as a result. Indian business newspaper, Mint, in Delhi hires 50/50 across gender lines and hired a gender consultant to help them with gender diversity. Taz, a German newspaper has an employment enforcement quota of 50/50 and when there is an opening, they consider women first.
When women are hired in leadership positions in the newsroom, news for and about women come to the top more often than not. There’s family atmosphere and diversification.
Gender balance, gender mainstreaming is the way to go in the media if the media is to rise up to the occasion, be better and in setting agenda, they must practice what they preach. So many media houses are doing their best but there is still some way to go. We must consciously upgrade our gender mainstreaming.
– Abu, a Veteran Broadcaster, presented this at the ‘Report Women House to House Chat’ organised by The Wole Soyinka centre for investigative journalism
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