March, the month set aside to honour women’s contributions to American history is commemorated worldwide as “Women’s history month.” Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world was the theme of International Women’s Day March 8.
If there’s anything that a quarter-century of media monitoring has revealed, it is that the road to gender equality is long and treacherous. It’s a maze to find our way through, with enemies to fight off, dead ends to navigate and cliffs to climb. Along the way our eyes open to see the excluded others who should be part of the journey.
Fresh transnational research evidence from the Global Media Monitoring Project indicates that the news media remain far from being inclusive spaces for women, vulnerable women, and historically marginalized groups. We have a problem when Indigenous women’s experiences and voices are only three out of 1,000 of the whole in televised news across Latin America. Or when the elderly are fewer than one per cent of subjects and sources in European newscasts and, of these, more than seven out of ten are men.
COVID-19 forced everyday life to shift to the digital sphere. Marginalization of women’s voices and experiences is more acute in web-published news specific to the pandemic than in stories that have nothing to do with COVID-19. There is no correlation between the gender composition of health experts in pandemic stories and the same in reality.
Knowing the numbers in the just released Global Media Monitoring Project’s preliminary results is a first step towards an equal future for all in a COVID-19 news world. The full results of the study, which includes a snapshot of Canadian news media, along with more than 100 other newspapers around the world, will be released in the summer.
Sarah Macharia is WACC program manager for gender and communication. She is also the international coordinator for the Global Media Monitoring Project. WACC Global is an international NGO that promotes communication as a basic human right, essential to people’s dignity and community.
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