10th April 2024
Impress Insights: Misogyny in the Media Won’t Improve Until Women Feel Represented and Welcomed in the Industry

Shelina Janmohamed: Misogyny in the Media Won't Improve Until Women Feel Represented and Welcomed in the Industry

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It is of course a statement of what we all know, that news and media hold a profound influence in shaping societal perceptions and narratives. And this is notably true in the dynamics around women in news, their presence, power and representation.

It’s instructive to think about three areas where inequality and misogyny can hamper the goals of the press to shed light on what is happening, as well as holding to account those responsible.

The most familiar of course is about the way women are depicted in the press. Plenty of studies talk about how women are shown as victims, powerless. Recent coverage of sad cases of domestic violence against women or suicide due to mental health has generated controversy in the disparity with which the male and female protagonists have been covered for example.

We can then turn to think about women who are working in the news industries at all levels. There is still a way to go for equality in the numbers – because that naturally affects which stories are selected and how they are told. And this disparity grows the more senior in the organisation, where editorial choices and perspectives have even more sway.

A recent study by the Reuters Institute found that only 24% of the 174 top editors across the 240 brands covered are women. In all 12 of the markets covered, the majority of top editors are men, even in countries where there are more female journalists than male ones. The study confirmed that, if current trends continue among the markets studied, we will be waiting until the year 2074 for gender parity across these editorial positions.

The laws, regulation and governance of the news media and industry is perhaps most powerful though least discussed. There is of course a balance to be struck in freedom of expression with standards that allow the public to enjoy trust in the press – an ever more important goal to the backdrop of fake news, misinformation and disinformation. Women need to be in this ecosystem.

This will become ever more urgent with the growing role of AI in news and media. It is an accepted fact that AI is built on pre-existing knowledge stores, and thus brings with it all the biases and stereotypical expectations of times past. However, if there is less scrutiny of AI output by human editors, and if women are not in positions to counteract these inbuilt hidden biases then the spiral of misogyny and inequality may quickly accelerate.

Having come to the news and media as an individual wanting to tackle misrepresentation, I took the op-ed route. And there was one thing that spurred me on: women are published far less as opinion columnists. But women also submit far less. And that includes being put off by the opacity of the press, as well as the disparity of the way women are represented by the media.

A perfect storm of the three aspects: depiction, inequality in making news and setting the news agenda, and inequality from the news standards and regulation ecosystem.

By Shelina Janmohamed
Author, public speaker, newspaper columnist and Impress board member


About Shelina

Shelina is an author, public speaker and newspaper columnist. She has written for publications such as The Telegraph, The Guardian, the BBC and Campaign Magazine, and is a regular opinion columnist in The National UAE. She works in the advertising and branding industry and has worked with some of the world’s biggest companies such as Coca-Cola, Unilever and Nestle. She sits as an advisor on WPP’s Inclusion Board as well as the Inclusion Board for Ogilvy. She is a globally recognised expert on Muslim consumer trends. She has been named one of the UK’s 100 most powerful Muslim women.

About Impress 

Impress is a champion for news that can be trusted. We are here to make sure news providers can publish with integrity; and the public can engage in an ever-changing media landscape with confidence. We set the highest regulatory standards for news, offer education to help people make informed choices and provide resolution when disputes arise. 

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