Women in media still held back

Namhla Tshisela

Namhla Tshisela

South African newsrooms are still predominantly "white old boys' clubs" and black women have yet to crack the glass ceiling, an audit revealed yesterday.

The release of Glass Ceiling Two: An Audit of Women and Men in South African Newsrooms on World Press Freedom Day suggests that genuine press freedom is impossible to attain while gender inequality is still prevalent.

The study, headed by the South African National Editors' Forum (Sanef), states: "While the income differential between white men and black men in newsrooms is narrowing, black women earn on average 25percent less than white men in newsrooms."

The study involved 4364 participants from nine print and broadcast media.

They were the SABC, Media 24, Primedia, Sapa, Independent Newspapers, Kaya FM, the Citizen, Johncom and the Mail and Guardian.

The report says women occupy 30percent of top management positions and 70percent of all semi-skilled workers, which include secretaries, clerks and receptionists.

Colleen Lowe Morna, the executive director of Gender Links, says these disparities "limited women's voices" in the media.

This is disparaging in a country where women are the majority of the population, she says.

She says women dominate media such as television because they are valued more for their looks than their talent and intellect.

This is in stark contrast to radio station Kaya FM's news department, which recorded a 100percent representation at top management, with 70percent of women in the newsroom.

Sanef deputy chairman Thabo Leshilo says the appointment of women to management positions is "significant" in achieving parity and shows "willingness to right the wrongs" in the industry.

However, Lowe Morna says women often leave senior positions because they are forced to "balance dual roles" both at work and home.

She says only more "family friendly" work environments that allow women to prosper in both spheres can stem the flow.

Lowe Morna says she is encouraged by the emergence of a new generation of women who are not restricted by traditional practices and roles.

Sanef convenor, Lizette Rabe, says the report proves that the media has not achieved equality and freedom.

"Equality is still just a word in our constitution," she says.

The report recommends the development of gender policies and equality targets, the integration of equity laws, constant monitoring and evaluation and training and development programmes led by Sanef.