By Miriam Menkiti
According to the World Development Report (WDR) 2012, gender is defined as socially constructed norms and ideologies which determine the behaviour and actions of men and women.
Gender is recognized as being an important consideration in development. It is a way of looking at how social norms and power structures impact on the lives and opportunities available to different groups of men and women. Globally, more women than men live in poverty. Women are also less likely than men to receive basic education and to be appointed to a political position nationally and internationally.
Understanding that men and women, boys and girls experience poverty differently and face different barriers in accessing services, economic resources and political opportunities help to target interventions.
Diversity is generally defined as acknowledging, understanding, accepting, valuing, and celebrating differences among people with respect to age, class, ethnicity, gender, physical and mental ability, race, sexual orientation, spiritual practice, and public assistance status (Esty, et al., 1995) (in document HR022, one of a series of the Food and Resource Economics Department, Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida. Original publication date June 2002. Revised October 2008. Reviewed February 2012).
Diversity also means understanding that each individual is unique and recognizing our individual differences. It describes the similarities and differences that people have.
It is against the background of these definitions that this paper will focus on “Promoting Gender Diversity in Newsrooms: The Role of Media Owners and Managers”.
Promoting Gender Diversity in Newsrooms
The promotion of gender diversity in newsrooms has become a concern for people around the world. This is because Newsrooms play important roles in society. Reports on current events which emanate from them, provide frameworks for interpretation, mobilize citizens with regard to various issues, reproduce predominant culture and society, and entertain (Llanos and Nina, 2011).
Therefore it is necessary to promote gender diversity in the newsroom so that reports emanating from them will not be limited by the socially constructed roles for either men or women.
Some questions come to mind here and they will serve as issues as we further engage with this topic. Are media owners and managers driving the process of promoting gender diversity in newsrooms? Will it enhance their profit margin or make any difference for them? Why should they be committed to gender diversity in the newsroom? How will this benefit the society? Will gender diversity in the newsrooms stop stereotyping in the media of men as dominant and powerful and women as objects of men attention? Will gender diversity in the newsroom translate to better representation of women in the media?
What can media owners and managers do to ensure Gender Diversity in Newsroom?
The role of Media owners and managers lies in ensuring that the recruitment process for staff of newsrooms is credible. There has to be an honest interface between the owners and managers since they are strategic actors in promoting gender diversity, both in the newsroom (in terms of employment and promotion of staff at all levels) and in the representation of women and men in terms of fair gender portrayal and the use of neutral and non-gender specific language. The media owners should recognize the managers as professional whose input into the recruitment process should be respected.
Media owners and managers can introduce gender diversity policy for newsrooms.
What can prevent Media Owners and Managers from promoting Gender Diversity in Newsrooms?
It is unfortunate that the ‘Nigerian’ factor is always there. Media owners and managers put mundane interests first. While the owners feel they can bring in anyone they like, the managers want to assist their friends and relations. This adversely affects gender diversity in newsrooms.
Lack of political will to focus on the issue may be a challenge for media owners and managers.
What are the Gender Realities in the Newsrooms?
Some media owners and managers assign beats to reporters using the socially constructed roles, for men and women. They have to deconstruct these ideas to achieve gender diversity. For instance, some media managers will insist that because women are home makers they should be assigned to cover Women Affairs. Those socially constructed roles and norms should not be the yardstick for assigning duties in newsrooms. The Nigeria’s Newsroom Diversity Study, (2000) notes that there is a large representation of men than women in most organizations. The study team found that indeed, this trend is repeated in the media with men assuming majority roles as journalists, managers and owners.
Benefits of Gender Diversity in Newsrooms
From my own perspective, the success and competitiveness in newsrooms depend upon the ability of the media owners and managers to embrace gender diversity and realize the benefits, one of which could be fair gender portrayal in the media.
Gender diversity in the newsroom appeals to human rights and equity and there will be synergy in teams. It could enhance communication skills, increase creativity and diverse minds will come together. Newsrooms will have diverse talents and will result in better story telling
Newsrooms employing a gender diverse workforce can supply a greater variety of solutions to problems. Reporters and editors from diverse backgrounds bring individual talents and experiences in suggesting ideas that can make stories rich.
Gender diversity in the newsroom will provide an opportunity for communicating varying points of view and provides a larger pool of ideas and experiences.
Gender diversity in Newsrooms will result in varying interests and story ideas that will translate to broader spectrum of stories and this will serve the audience better.
Gender diversity in newsrooms can create an opportunity for gender balanced reportage of events.
I will conclude by saying that as media people we need to further engage with this topic Promoting Gender Diversity in Newsrooms: The Role of Media Owners and Managers. This will enable us to see whether it can enhance media practice in Nigeria. For instance, will gender diversity in the newsrooms change the practice where females are assigned to cover ‘soft’ subjects such as style and arts, while male journalists are assigned to the presumed ‘difficult’ beats such as politics or security? Will gender diversity in newsrooms change the mentality where instead of saying that a woman writes well, someone will say that ‘she writes like a man’.
Will gender diversity in the newsrooms change the perception of women in the media?
In the name of producing better journalism, I submit that gender diversity should be applauded and a goal of every newsroom.
Miriam Menkiti made this presentation on February 28, 2013 at a Roundtable on Media and Gender Issues in Nigeria held in Abuja on February 28 and March 1, 2013 under the auspices of the UNDP Democratic Governance for Development (UNDP-DGD) Project II.