By Ruth Kronenburg
Access to information and freedom of expression are fundamental human rights. Media plays an important role in influencing perceptions of gender; raising awareness about gender inequality and the empowerment of women. The media has the power to build and destroy stereotypes, for example through the fair gender portrayal and participation of women in the media.
However, global efforts and commitments made since the adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (BPfA) in 1995 leave a lot of progress to be desired, in order to achieve gender equality and improve the position of women in the media. While women represent half of the world population, the most recent report of the Global Media Monitoring Project (GMMP) shows that media content is far from gender sensitive and is still presented from a male-dominated perspective. Only 1 in 4 of the people seen, heard or read about in the news since 2010 are women; their viewpoints are not included and they are often portrayed according to stereotypes.
This trend is valid both in traditional media (e.g. TV, radio, newspapers, books, magazines) and digital media. The EU Femm Committee’s 2018 Study on Gender Equality in the Media reported widespread gender based discrimination and the inequality of opportunities within media industries; including a gap in salary, hiring, allocation of work, and promotion.
What media can do to improve
The media sector, us as consumers, and policy makers need reliable gender-disaggregated data to capture the trends in gender representation in the media, to make informed decisions and act upon (harmful) gender norms. Beyond data collection we must always consider that while numbers are factual, each data point represents a personal and often untold story.
Free Press Unlimited and Tuwindi — a non-profit civic-tech organisation based in Mali, developed an online gender media monitoring platform called Mediascan (http://mediascan.net/). It enables users to submit data on a regular basis through an online collection form or app and automatically creates a visual presentation of this data.
This objective monitoring data serves as a starting point for engagement with editors and decision-makers in the newsroom. They have a better understanding and increased awareness of their own performance in this area, and are encouraged to establish gender-sensitive editorial policies and practices to address the imbalances. This has proven to be a successful approach to challenge gendered norms and assumptions therefore contributing to gender equality in society in the long term. As an open-source platform Mediascan can easily be utilised by other media organisations and implemented in any cultural context.
Media must do a better job at reaching out to women experts; giving equal attention to their views and perspectives when covering any story. Real progress towards this goal requires a commitment to invest, as well as motivating key stakeholders to introduce systemic changes. Free Press Unlimited and our allies embrace our role in promoting and supporting this change.
 Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality
Views expressed in this publication are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Paris Peace Forum.
Ruth Kronenburg studied Business Administration and Communication and has many years of experience in the commercial world of media, where she held various management and executive positions. In these positions, she has been responsible for a wide range of activities, varying from business operations to production, to supervising the merger and setting up country offices for Endemol in Belgium and Switzerland.
Since 2011 she has been Director of Operations at Free Press Unlimited. In this role, all her previous experiences in the commercial media world come together, but now with an extra dimension: contributing to a better world.
Besides her work as Director of Operations of Free Press Unlimited, Ruth Kronenburg is also a member of the Supervisory Board of the Transnational Institute (TNI) and a member of the Advisory Committee of Pro Bono Connect, a project initiated by the Netherlands Committee of Jurists for Human Rights (NJCM).