Call to re-strategize for GMMP 2025 to tackle new challenges of gender equality in the media

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Call to re-strategize for GMMP 2025 to tackle new challenges of gender equality in the media

Advocacy must evolve and new partnerships be formed to address current challenges of gender equality in and through the media, WACC Gender and Communications Program Manager Sarah Macharia told an online gathering of gender and media experts in late October.

The virtual round table “Women’s Representation in the Media and Digital Communication. New Problems in the Face of Historical Debates” was organized by the Global Alliance on Media and Gender (GAMAG); CIMAC, the Mexico national coordinator for WACC’s Global Media Monitoring Project (GMMP); and Conectadas.

“Painfully slow” progress towards gender equality in the news

Macharia, GMMP global coordinator and GAMAG general secretary, said the choice of indicators for the global monitoring allowed for a comparison of change over time while also taking into account new developments impacting the news landscape, such as the growing popularity of digital platforms as news delivery channels.

“Women’s voices are heard more than ever before in the different mediums across a range of story topics, occupations, and functions in the stories,” she noted, with the most recent GMMP in 2020 revealing a rise in the proportion of women interviewed as source experts.

According to Macharia, there has also been a 3-point increase in the number of stories reported by a women media professional, from 37% in 2005 to 40% in 2020 in traditional media and a slightly higher amount in digital media.

But Macharia said that, despite some gains, GMMP 2020 findings showed that progress in the representation and portrayal of women in mainstream news media “is painfully slow.”

“Under-representation in presence and voice remains a challenge,” Macharia said. “All things remaining equal, it will take at least a further three generations to close the average gender equality gap in mainstream news media.”

She added that the quality of the portrayal of women and girls in the news continued to be an issue as well. “News stories are as unlikely to clearly challenge stereotypes today as they were when this indicator was first studied.”

New challenges for gender-just media

Macharia highlighted important shifts in the news media landscape since the GMMP 2020 was conducted. She pointed in particular to the growing distrust of mainstream media and increasing importance of digital platforms like social media as principal news sources.

Monitoring in 2020 of online news sites and Twitter accounts made clear that the challenges of underrepresentation and misrepresentation of women in the media had carried over into digital news platforms, according to the WACC gender and media expert.

As well, Macharia pointed to a rise in online misogyny as a significant hurdle to achieving gender-just media — expressing in both blatant violence and sexist microaggressions the backlash against women’s rights and gender equality now happening on digital platforms.

She noted artificial intelligence and its implications for journalism as a further concern considering the evidence of gender as well as other biases in machine learning processes.

Need to re-strategize moving into GMMP 2025

“If not addressed, these practices will no doubt narrow the space for gender equality and freedom of expression in and through these news media formats,” Macharia stressed. “There is an uncertain future ahead that calls for re-strategizing if current and emerging threats are to be mitigated.”

Looking ahead to the next GMMP in 2025, the project’s global coordinator emphasized the need to “work smarter” and grow new partnerships connecting across academia, civil society, and the media industry.

“Gender equality is a moving target, evolving as media also evolves. It is crucial to evolve our strategies for the GMMP as well. We must strengthen the network and work together across sectors — because there are proponents for change in all these spaces.”

—Speakers at the roundtable included Aimée Vega Montiel, GAMAG chair, and Cirenia Celestino from CIMAC, GMMP Mexico coordinator.

WACC is a member of GAMAG and hosts its global secretariat. The Global Media Monitoring Project (GMMP), WACC’s flagship activity, is the largest and longest-running research on gender in the world’s news media.