#MeToo has shown the impact that media, especially digital media, can have on changing the lives of women.
Media is the biggest channel for influencing mindsets, creating opinions and spreading awareness. Especially in today’s digital era, where news and information have taken over lives of every individual, media – both print and video – can play a pivotal role in bringing about any change. Therefore, every endeavour to bring about an advancement of women and to bridge the gender, wage and opportunity gaps will have to have the media as a major partner to be effective.
Following are some ways in which media can help create a more conducive environment for women’s advancement:
1. Scale up reporting on women by several fold – According to the findings of Global Media Monitoring Project 2015, women’s voices are grossly underrepresented in the media. The report finds that “at 24% of the total, there has been no change in women’s share of news-making roles in the traditional media (newspapers, radio, television) since 2005. The new digital media (Internet and Twitter news) offer little comfort, where also women were only 26% of the people in the news in 2015. Across all media, women were the central focus of just 10% of news stories – exactly the same figure as in 2000. Since 2005, the percentage of stories reported by women has been static at 37%, and there has been almost no movement in the proportion of news that challenges gender stereotypes – just 4% of the total in 2015”. Therefore, the foremost requirement from the media is to find ways of scaling up visibility of women across all media.
2. Spread positivity – a significant portion of reporting on women focuses on the problems women face, the abysmal statistics relating to women or the general negativity surrounding the status of women today. However, a corresponding proportion or a higher proportion of content needs to focus on the solutions, on the progress and on the positive strides being made towards advancing women. This would help create an environment which presents more hope than despair.
3. Report responsibly and use gender-sensitive language – the tone and language in which any negative news relating to women, even remotely, must keep in mind the impact it can have on other women’s lives. Especially, just the way the media creates female role models, it must honour and respect them at all times and in all circumstances.
4. Promote a balanced and non-stereotyped portrayal of women in the media – this is a change that is already visible across media and advertising, but it is a point that needs to be constantly kept in mind while creating any content.
5. Celebrate and honour champions of women – it is via the media that deeply embedded mindsets can be changed. One way of doing this is to showcase and celebrate everyone who supports a woman’s advancement – husbands, mothers-in-law, companies, seniors and managers. This will create incentives for people to become more supportive rather than forcing them to do so.
6. Push forward the agenda into the political realm – a high level of political commitment to gender diversity is extremely vital for achieving the country’s gender goals, and constructive activism by the media can help put gender issues on the political agenda.