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Longer, analytical article.  Women and men in Zimbabwe media

Summary & Comment: This audit of women and men in the Zimbabwean media houses is part of the Glass Ceilings: Women and Men in Southern African Media survey conducted by Gender Links. The findings will be used in a global study being carried out by the International Media Women’s Foundation through the Gender and Media Diversity Centre. DN

Author: Editors: S. Ndlovu, M.Madziwa Date Written: 23 August 2009
Primary Category: Media Document Origin: Gender Links
Secondary Category: Gender Source URL: http://www.genderlinks.org.za
Key Words: Zimbabwe, women, men, media,

African Charter Article #9: Every individual shall have the right to receive information and express their opinions. (Click for full text...)



Printable Version
Glass ceilings: Women and men in Zimbabwe media

http://www.genderlinks.org.za/page.php?p_id=360  

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

This audit of women and men in the Zimbabwean media houses is part of the Glass Ceilings: Women and Men in Southern African Media survey conducted by Gender Links (GL). The findings will be used in a global study being carried out by the International Media Women’s Foundation (IMWF), through the Gender and Media Diversity Centre (GMDC). This centre is a partnership between media development organisations and training and higher-learning institutions, to “collect and connect” knowledge, and collaborate to advance gender equality and diversity in the media across the globe. The GMDC has also facilitated partnerships for the fourth Global Media Monitoring Project (GMMP), and second Southern African Gender and Media Baseline Study (GMBS) being conducted in 2009/2010.

The study took place in the context of the August 2008 Southern African Development Community (SADC) Protocol on Gender and Development that urges the media and all decision-making bodies in the region to achieve gender parity by 2015. The gender protocol also calls for the mainstreaming of gender in all media laws, policies and training. It urges the media to give equal voice to women and men, challenge gender stereotypes and ensure balance and sensitivity in coverage - especially of gender violence. In Zimbabwe the study is based on research carried out in four media houses, with a total of 1 154 employees. The researcher conducted in-depth case studies of two media houses, and interviewed four journalists/senior managers/editors for perspectives on the results. A further 19 senior staff responded to perception questionnaires.

In total 126 media houses (about half of all media houses1) in 142 of the 15 countries of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), representing 23 684 employees, participated in the research. Some 463 respondents filled in the perception questionnaires. Relevant regional comparisons are made throughout the report. This report should be read in tandem with the regional report: “Glass Ceilings: Women and Men in the Southern African Media.” Sikhonzile Ndlovu, Gender Links media literacy programme co-ordinator, and Miriam Madziwa, a freelance journalist based in Zimbabwe, undertook the research in Zimbabwe.

A significant limitation of this country study is that despite repeated efforts the state broadcaster, the largest employer did not participate in the study and this may have a bearing on the overall proportions. The sample is skewed towards the print media in which there is generally a lower proportion of women than men. However, as the sample (1154) is still relatively large, and to the extent that the study provides a good reflection of the print media, the report is a valuable contribution to the gender and media debates in Zimbabwe. It is hoped that further studies will give a better rounded picture of all media types.

Key findings of the study include:

There are six times as many men as women in Zimbabwe media houses surveyed:
Men constitute 87% of employees in the Zimbabwe media surveyed in this study - almost seven times the 13% women employees. The proportion of women in Zimbabwean newsrooms is much lower than the regional average of 41%.
Female representation varies among media houses:
With 38% women, Radio Dialogue had the highest proportion of women, followed by Zimind Publishers that has 28% women on its payroll. Zimpapers had the least proportion of women at 11%.
Women constitute more than a third of boards of directors:
Women constitute 38% of those on boards of directors in the study, compared with 28% in the regional study.
But they barely feature in top management:
Women occupy a very low (13%) proportion of top management in Zimbabwean media surveyed, lower that the regional average of 23%.
Women poorly represented in senior management:
Women hold only a tenth of senior management positions in Zimbabwe media houses surveyed; lower than the regional average of 28%.
Men get better working deals:
Men (82%) are more likely than women (18%) to be employed in full-time, open-ended contracts, compared to 42% women in the rest of the region.
Men dominate most departments in Zimbabwean media houses:
Except for design (50%) and human resources (42%), men dominate all departments. The male domination is especially pronounced in editorial (83%), technical/IT and printing and distribution (100%).
Women are concentrated in the support departments:
While women in Zimbabwean media houses are under-represented in most areas of work, they are found in higher proportions in support roles in areas considered “women’s work”. These include advertising and marketing (40%) and human resources (58%).
Fewer women in editorial departments than in the region:
In Zimbabwe, only 17% in editorial departments in media houses are women. This is well below the regional average of 42%.
The gender division of labour is sharply defined:
Male journalists dominate what are considered the hard beats, such as human rights3 (100%), sustainable development & environment (100%) and sport (92%). Women predominate in gender equality (100%), gender violence (100%) and religion (100%).
Half of Zimbabwean media houses have gender-parity targets:
Only 50% of media houses in the Zimbabwean sample could point to gender targets for ensuring gender equality.
Career pathing for women in Zimbabwean media houses not a priority: None of the media houses in Zimbabwe indicated they had strategies to fast-track women. But half the media houses said they had considered promoting women. This was lower that the regional average of 34%.3
No effort being made to target good women candidates:
None of the media houses in the Zimbabwean sample indicated they had a database of women candidates. In the regional sample 40% of the media houses have such a database, and a high proportion of media houses in the region target women specifically for jobs.
Paternity leave not an issue, but maternity leave a high priority:
In the Zimbabwean sample, 75% of the media houses indicated they had maternity leave, lower than the regional average of 81%. But none offers paternity leave, compared to 33% in the regional study. The low commitment to paternity leave across the region perpetuates the stereotype that child rearing is a female responsibility.
Flexi-time high on agenda, but child care not a priority:
All the media houses in the Zimbabwean sample indicated they offered flexi-time - higher than the regional average of 75%. But none of the media houses has child-care facilities, compared with 17% in the region.
Zimbabwean media have no gender policies, but want to develop them: None of the media houses in the Zimbabwean sample said they had gender policies, but 75% indicated they would want to develop one. Across the region, 16% of media houses said they had gender policies, and 68% said they would like to develop gender policies.

ZIMBABWE MEDIA CONTEXT

Formerly a colony of Britain, Zimbabwe is located at the heart of Southern Africa. The country of an estimated population of 12 million shares borders with Mozambique to the east, Zambia to the north, Botswana and Namibia to the west and South Africa to the south. Zimbabwe, formerly Rhodesia, gained independence in 1980. Zimbabwe’s Constitution guarantees all citizens freedom of expression, which - as the country’s Supreme Court has ruled in several cases - is “one of the most precious freedoms, a vitally important right and an indispensable condition for a free and democratic society”. 4

Freedom of expression, especially in the public domain, is premised on the belief that everyone in society has rights and entitlements by virtue of being citizens. The National Gender Policy, publicly released in 2003, also notes that access to information is critical to enable individuals and communities to make decisions about their lives.5 Until 1990, when Zimbabwe “liberalised”, the country was a virtually a one-party state. The state-run Zimbabwe Newspapers Group (print); the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) – (radio and television); Zimbabwe Inter Africa News Agency (now New Ziana Private Limited) as well as the Community Newspapers Group (CNG) dominated the media landscape.

After 1990 the private print media sector expanded rapidly. This included the ZimInd Publishers (publishers of two weeklies, The Zimbabwe Independent and The Standard); Associated Newspapers Group6 (publishers of The Daily News and the Daily News on Sunday), The Zimbabwe Mirror Group of Newspapers and African Tribune Group. Broadcasting remained under the tight grip of the government. Soon after, the democratic space began to shrink. The promulgation of laws such as the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA), and the Broadcasting Services Act (BSA) resulted in closure of some of the private media titles, high-profile cases being those of ANZ and African Tribune Newspapers. Other papers folded because of viability problems associated with economic instability in Zimbabwe.

Gender and media in Zimbabwe

The 2003 Gender and Media Baseline Study (2003) study found that women constituted only 15% of the news sources in the media monitored, some 2% lower than the regional average of 17%. In the Global Media Monitoring Project (GMMP) conducted in 2005, female sources constituted 22% of the total in Zimbabwe, compared to a global average of 21% and a regional average of 19%. The work on gender and institutional transformation builds on continuing collaboration to develop HIV/AIDS newsroom policies. Since 2005, GL has worked with more than 148 media houses in the Southern African region in developing gender-aware HIV/AIDS policies as part of the Media Action Plan on HIV and AIDS and Gender (MAP), led by the Southern African Editors’ Forum (SAEF).

Unfortunately, Zimbabwean media have not benefited from this exercise, in part because of the economic and political uncertainties that have affected the country for the past decade. But Gender Links will continue to find ways of reaching out to Zimbabwean media to help develop HIV/AIDS and gender policies.

Methodology

Zimbabwe was classified as a “low-density” media country; that is a country with fewer than 20 media houses. As a result six were targeted, but only four participated. Unfortunately this did not include the state broadcaster; the biggest employer. However, the sample of 1154 employees is still relatively large for a study of this nature. Table 1 shows the four media houses sampled, and the number of employees in each. The sample also covers all three media types - public, private and community. All of the questionnaires were filled out in an interview. Human resource managers or payroll administrators constituted the bulk of respondents. The study took place in January 2009. The research team gathered and compiled all of the questionnaire findings using Ms- Excel spreadsheets to compile graphs and tables.

FINDINGS

Women and men in Zimbabwe media versus region Figure one illustrates that women constitute only 13% and men 87% of those in Zimbabwean media houses surveyed, compared to 41% and 59% respectively in the Southern African region. As shown in Figure two, women are under-represented in all newsrooms sampled in Zimbabwe. Radio Dialogue has the highest proportion of women (34%) followed by Zimind Publishers (28%). With 17% female representation the Financial Gazette is third, while Zimpapers, the state-controlled print media house, has the lowest with 11%.

Why are women fewer in Zimbabwe media houses?

Figures three and four illustrate the three main reasons why women and men believe there are fewer women in media houses in Zimbabwe. The highest proportion of women (32%) cited discouraging working conditions as the main reason, while the largest proportion of men (21%) blamed a lack of recruitment of women. Women cited as their second and third reason lack of role models and difficulty in juggling responsibilities. Men also cited difficulty in juggling responsibilities, and 17% claimed women lacked interest in joining the media. It is interesting that none cited fear of state harassment in a notoriously difficult political situation.

In the rest of the Southern African region, women and men cited discouraging working conditions and difficulties juggling responsibilities as the two main reasons for fewer women in newsrooms. A good percentage of women (15%) and men (17%) also felt there were not enough women training as journalists.

Missing from action!

Many women cited discouraging working conditions, lack of role models and difficulty in juggling responsibilities as the top three reasons for fewer women than men in media houses. Respondents also mentioned poor remuneration under the disastrous economic circumstances in Zimbabwe. Phyllis Kachere, deputy news editor for Zimpapers, said: “Most media houses do not go out of their way to employ females, preferring men, whom they feel are flexible and can go anywhere anytime. Because of the caring role of women in the home, most women will not be there when news happens, either because they are breast feeding or nursing a sick child or husband, while their male colleagues are on the spot.” “Because of the sometimes absurd working hours in the media, most women are made to shun their employ by partners or spouses,” she added.

A female colleague from the Standard newspaper concurred, saying: “Media work requires that one be available any time of the day for work. So it is difficult for women to balance both work and home needs, as they normally have family responsibilities to attend to.” But a male respondent noted: “Most women are interested in working as PROs [public relations officers] or in NGOs, despite having undergone media training.” Another male respondent at Radio Dialogue said: “Active recruitment of women is not there, because the organisation does not have a gender policy.” Another male respondent added: “We expect women to be home at 6pm cooking, and not at press conferences mingling with ministers.”

Women under-represented in top echelons

The study sought to establish the number of women and men at different occupational levels in media houses. Table two provides a description of which positions fall within which category. Figures six and seven illustrate where women and men are placed within the media hierarchy. In general, the two graphs show women are poorly represented in the top echelons of media houses. The highest proportion of women (45%) in Zimbabwe media houses is in the semi-skilled category, while the lowest (7%) is at non permanent level. In the regional average, there are more women (55%) than men (45%) in the semi-skilled level category.

The proportion of women on boards of directors in Zimbabwe (38%) is significantly higher than the regional average of 28%, yet women in Zimbabwe media houses constitute only 13% of top management and 10% in senior management, compared to 23% and 28% respectively in the region.

Variations by media house

Figure 8 shows that Radio Dialogue has equal representation of women and men at board level, while the Financial Gazette and Zimind Publishers (33% and 20% women on the boards respectively) fall below the SADC target of equal representation of women in decision-making positions by 2015.

Why are there fewer women than men in senior positions?


Figures nine and 10 show the perceptions of women and men about why there are fewer women in senior management in Zimbabwean media houses. The most common reason given by women (26%) is that men feel threatened. Men (20%) stated that men were taken more seriously than women. The second most common reason given by women (16%) was that women do not apply for top posts, while the second most common reason given by men was that women are by-passed for promotion. The same percentage of men and women (16%) lamented having no policies to advance women.

Respondents in the Southern African region cited the “old boys’ network” as the main reason for women not advancing, with men citing “no policies to advance women” and women saying that “men are taken more seriously” as their second main reasons, with “men are taken more seriously” cited a close third by both women (13%) and men (12%).

How one man is trying to make a difference

Thabani Mpofu is editor Sunday News weekly newspaper, which is part of the Zimbabwe Newspapers (Zimpapers) Group. The paper is based in Zimbabwe’s second-largest city of Bulawayo. Mpofu joined Zimpapers in 1999 as a sub-editor for another title in Zimpapers, the Sunday News. At the time the media house was being computerised, and Mpofu tasked with identifying competent sub-editors from within the company. “That was when I was promoted to chief sub-editor. I chose two men and one woman for the positions. At that time Edna Machirori was the editor of The Sunday News, and the only woman in the editorial department. Edna Machirori is now assistant editor of the Financial Gazette, and one of the longest-serving female journalists in Zimbabwe. A short while later I was tasked to identify proof readers, and I chose two men and one woman.”

Mpofu says one of the key challenges of his career has been to create gender balance in the newsroom. After being promoted to assistant editor in 2002, he had more say in recruitment. “I appointed three women to the positions of desk editors. But all three have since left journalism,” he says. Asked why women leave the media profession he responded: “The working environment is not friendly. For example, sub-editors work from 2pm to 10pm, and sometimes as late as 1am. This is especially difficult for married women. The news desk does not have specified hours, but reporters sometimes chase stories until very late at night.”

The Sunday News seeks to apply strategies to attract female journalists to the newsroom. The paper has only two female sub-editors, but Mpofu says they are working to bring in more women. “When we recruit for internships we make a deliberate effort to take more female students. This is with the hope that they will come back after finishing training. At the moment there are two female and two male students on attachment,” he says.

Mpofu sees gender parity in newsrooms as important. “Women and men bring different energies to the newsroom. Women have proved their worth. In terms of content you get different perspectives on issues. Our acting chief sub-editor is a woman, and she has done the job diligently. Having only men in the newsroom gives the impression that journalism is a male field, which is not the case,” he says. The Sunday News editor believes more women on the staff means “efficiency and diligence”, and a different angle to reports. “There should be a balance of sources, with female reporters talking to both men and women.”

Asked what strategies can be used to increase the number of women in editorial departments, Mpofu suggested this should start in the training institutions: “Female students should be brought to understand the demands of the profession. The problem is that most come ill-prepared, so they cannot face up to the pressure.” He suggests seeking women in particular for jobs, and career pathing once they are in the newsroom. “Newsrooms should also have a deliberate policy to accommodate female journalists. They should identify high-flyers and support them.”

Conditions of employment

The study found that men had more favourable working conditions than their female counterparts. The position occupied by women and men, as well as the terms and conditions of service, had implications for what they earned, and could be a significant barrier to achieving gender parity.

Women likely to have less favourable conditions of employment


Figure 12 and 13 illustrate the conditions of service for media practitioners in Zimbabwe and Southern Africa respectively. The most secure form of employment is the full-time, open-ended contract, and women in Zimbabwean media houses make up only 18% of staff employed on this basis, compared to 42% in the region. The next most secure form of employment is the full-time, fixed-term contract. Zimbabwean media houses have achieved parity between women and men on this type of contract, and this is a better average than the regional 37%. The freelance and part-time categories are usually dominated by women, due to the dual roles they play in running households as well as working.

But women make up only 22% of freelancers working for Zimbabwean media houses, compared with 43% in the region. Whereas in the regional study women constituted 23% of employees working part-time, they made up a mere 5% in Zimbabwean media houses.

Conditions of employment by media house


Despite Radio Dialogue having the highest proportion (34%) of female employees, only 26% are on full-time, open-ended contracts. ZimInd Publishers had 28% women on full-time, open-ended contracts, much in line with the proportion of women in the media house. Financial Gazette had 24% and Zimpapers the least number of women on full-time, open-ended contracts.

Gender division of labour in the media

The lowest proportion of women in Zimbabwe media houses surveyed is in editorial (17%), dramatically below the regional average of 42% women in editorial departments. The volatile and sometimes dangerous political situation in Zimbabwe is likely a significant factor, and part of the category “discouraging working conditions” prominently identified by the women respondents. There is an equal representation of women and men in the design departments of Zimbabwean media houses, while in the region women account for only 31% of design staff. As is the pattern in the region, women (58%) outnumber men in the human resources department, and at 40% they are progressing towards parity in advertising and marketing. There are no women in printing & production and technical/IT in the media houses surveyed.

Gender division of labour across beats

The beats assigned to male and female journalists is an indicator of how newsrooms view the roles of women and men in society. Beats are also significant as in promotion prospects, with the hard beats generally a more likely ticket to the top than soft ones. Figure 14 illustrates the top three beats for women (gender violence, gender equality, religion), and the top three beats for men (sustainable development, human rights, sport). In the region, gender equality, gender violence and health topped the list for women, while political stories, sport and investigative/in depth reporting topped the list for men. Table three, which reflects the findings for all beats, shows that the gender division of labour is clearly pronounced in Zimbabwean media houses.

The closest to a gender bender is in crime reporting, in which women are at par with men in a beat generally considered a male preserve. The rest of the beats indicate that women deal with “soft” beats while men work on beats considered “hard”.

Gender-blind beats?

There is a clear gender division of labour in Zimbabwean newsrooms, but there are no policies and practices to challenge the stereotypes of women covering what are considered “soft” beats. In response to how the low numbers of women in newsrooms affected him and his work, Financial Gazette journalist Njabulo Ncube’s said: “I am forced to do the beats that can be competently done by women. For example, the entertainment page; I believe a female can do better than a man. I am not being stereotypical. Look at international media trends - reporting on fashion, women sound good. Fashion pages world-wide are dominated by women.”

Thabani Mpofu, editor of the Sunday News, is quoted earlier in this report as saying women and men bring different “energies” to the newsroom, and different perspectives to the editorial content. “At the moment our Acting Chief Sub-editor is a woman and she has done the job diligently. Having men only in the newsroom gives the impression that journalism is a men’s field, which is not the case,” he says.

Making a difference?

The study sought opinions on whether having more women in media houses makes a difference. The Global Media Monitoring Project (GMMP) 2005 showed that women journalists are more likely than men to consult female opinion, but this does not mean 50% of their sources are women. In the Southern African analysis of the global study, female sources constituted 28% of the total consulted by women journalists, compared to 19% consulted by male journalists. (The global findings were that female sources made up 25% of the total used by women journalists, and 20% of those used by men. With the exception of Angola, women consulted female sources more than men did in every country of the region, with women journalists in some instances consulting women up to 40% of the time.8

Table 4 shows that only a few women (13%) and half of the men believe there is no relationship between having women in the media and achieving gender balance and sensitivity in media coverage. A majority of the women (67%) believe women are more likely to seek out female opinion, while men, at 30%, are less convinced. All of the female respondents and 80% of male respondents believed female journalists were more likely to cover gender- related topics than males were. A majority of both women (63%) and men (60%) also believed that when there were women in senior management, gender was more likely to be taken seriously in the work of the media house.

Fewer women (44%) and more men (60%) respondents believed that where there is a “critical mass” of women in the media house this affects the way men think and behave. Interestingly, a little more than half the women, compared to all male respondents, believed men could be as gender-aware as women.

Critical mass?

Less than half of women and more than half of men interviewed in Zimbabwean media houses said a “critical mass of women” would make a difference in editorial departments. The female respondents who agreed with this assertion did not elaborate. One male respondent said: “In the media house where there are a good number of women, women’s issues are carried more regularly than where there are no women or few women. The Financial Gazette at this time carries very little or no issues regarding gender”. Another male respondent agreed, saying: “The majority of listeners to our radio station are likely to be women, and it is important that the staff cater for these listeners. This is more likely if you have good female representation on the staff.”

Some men disagreed. An unnamed male journalist from Zimpapers said this was not a given: “It depends on training and exposure and policies put in place.” The significantly higher numbers (56%) of women who disagreed may be pointing to newsroom dynamics they have experienced, which showed no correlation between a critical mass of women and a material difference to newsroom culture or the behaviour of men.

Workplace policies and practices

The workplace environment has a substantial bearing on achieving gender parity in media houses. Respondents indicated what kinds of practices or policies their companies had put in place to increase women’s participation and representation in media houses. These included whether they had gender policies (or would wish to have one); affirmative action (fast tracking); career pathing and promotion. Table 5 summarises what proportion of the media houses checked “yes” to having gender-balance policies or practices in place:

Affirmative action

Half the media houses in Zimbabwe, only a little lower than the regional average of 54%, said they had specific targets for achieving gender equality. A significant proportion of women (43%) and men (44%) in Zimbabwe, similar to the region’s figures of 49% and 59%, were against quotas as a way of achieving gender equality in media. However, the voice of women respondents was split equally for and against quotas, as 43% also felt quotas were fair. The regional averages in favour of quotas was lower - only 27% of the women and 20% of the men. The strong negative reaction to special measures for increasing the level of women’s representation is a concern because, with a few exceptions, nowhere in the world has gender parity in decision-making been achieved without special measures.

Recruitment

None of the media houses sampled in Zimbabwe has databanks for women, and only 25% said they used gender-balanced panels. The low (13%) representation of women in Zimbabwean media houses correlates with the lack of such policies and strategies. It is important to assess whether women are selected for positions after being specifically targeted. According to the responses, most (57%) of job opportunities are advertised in newspapers. Almost a third are placed on notice boards and 14% are placed in the category “other”. The information does not indicate whether any of these adverts are being sent to women’s forums and organisations.

Career pathing, fast-tracking and promotion

None of the media houses in Zimbabwe has strategies for fast-tracking women. These media also do not have succession planning for women. But it is encouraging that half of the media houses have considered women for promotion compared to only 32% in the region.

Work environment

All the media houses in the Zimbabwean sample offer flexitime - and this eclipses the the regional average of 75%. Three-quarters of the media houses sampled stated that they offered maternity leave, but none offered paternity leave. This perpetuates the stereotype that the mother is responsible for the primary parenting role. None of the media houses indicated they had child-care facilities, compared with the regional average of 15%.

Workplace environment

Female respondents in media houses sampled in Zimbabwe expressed concern about workplace practices especially sexual harassment. As s female respondent from The Standard put it: “Where sexual harassment or sexist language are concerned, women who raise these are often not taken seriously, and in some cases of harassment male bosses sympathise with the accused, and at times try to underplay the charge.” Other women pointed to poor remuneration and lack of incentives for women as a big challenge. “In Zimbabwe biological differences and political instability make women the first targets. Media houses do not offer conducive workplace environments. For example, few women journalists drive, and their salaries are low.”

But respondents from Radio Dialogue highlighted family-friendly workplace practices at the radio station. One said: “The organisation is sensitive. For example, the bookkeeper, who is a woman, is allowed to knock off early when there are late-night events. Staff members who belong to the SDA (Seventh Day Adventist) church are given the opportunity to work on Sunday instead of Saturday.”

Gender and sexual harassment

One out of four of the Zimbabwean media houses have sexual-harassment policies compared with the marginally higher regional average of 28%. A quarter of women respondents in Zimbabwe compared with 11% in the region felt there were high levels of sexual harassment. None of the media houses sampled in Zimbabwe indicated they had gender policies, compared with 16% in the region. However, 75% of the media houses said they needed a gender policy, compared with 68% in the region. Table 6 illustrates that Radio Dialogue, with the lowest number of genderbalance indicators ticked, has the highest proportion of women, while Zimpapers, which has ticked the most indicators, has the lowest proportion of women. The Financial Gazette also has a high number of ticks, but the second-lowest proportion of women in the sample of Zimbabwean media houses. These statistics raise suspicions that policies and practices are not being effectively implemented.

CASE STUDY: FINANCIAL GAZETTE

The Financial Gazette makes an interesting case study, because it is headed by an experienced female editor, Edna Machirori even though only 17% of its staff are women. She is one of only two women in the history of mainstream media in Zimbabwe to head a newsroom. Machirori is one of the longest-serving female journalists. She has also been editor of the Chronicle daily newspaper. The previous editor of the Financial Gazette was Nqobile Nyathi, who later edited the Daily News, which has since stopped circulating due to government action. Machirori heads a male-dominated newsroom.

Women constitute only 17% of the staff at the Financial Gazette. When asked to comment on the effects of the low representation of women, Machirori said it did not affect her work, but “it is an awkward situation for a newspaper that champions the cause of women in editorials and reports not to practice what it preaches. It is a dent in the newspaper’s credibility, and its commitment to promoting gender equity within the framework of nation building.” Machirori admits the absence of women in her newsroom affects editorial content. “It robs readers of the special perceptions and gifts that women bring to the profession when they are given a chance to participate on an equal footing with male colleagues.”

Njabulo Ncube, a senior reporter on the paper, agrees: “The low representation of women has resulted in the dominance of male sources. The front page has stories on business and politics, none of which quote female sources. Even letters to the editor are male-dominated. Surely female readers have something to say, something which we do not see reflected in the paper. Even pictures in the hard news section are of men. We see pictures of women and hear their voices only in the entertainment section. Apparently they must only entertain. The absence of women results in lots of content insensitive to women’s interests,” said Ncube.

The Financial Gazette editor was forthright about her paper: “It seems fraudulent for the paper to claim to cater for all voices and viewpoints in its reporting, when it silences some of these in the newsroom. The odd woman who expresses strong views in an environment that is virtually a man’s world is regarded as an oddity, and this serves to perpetuate male prejudices.” Machirori and Ncube concurred that when there are fewer women in newsrooms it inhibits them from participating fully in decision-making. “Yes it does, 100%,” says Ncube, adding: “In our case we have only one woman in decision-making. She is obviously outnumbered, and I feel there are times when she cannot make certain crucial decisions, even though she is positioned to do so.”

For Machirori “it is self-evident that in a situation where no women are represented, only men’s views will be considered in shaping the newspaper’s coverage of events, and in projecting what the paper stands for. The paper looks at events through one squinted eye, instead of two open eyes.” Asked if there are any policies or practices that are obstacles to increasing the number of women in the newsroom, Ncube said: “It’s not deliberate that we do not have female journalists. We had three, including the deputy editor-in-chief, but unfortunately one passed away and the other relocated to South Africa. We are open to employing competent and hard-working journalists without discriminating on the grounds of sex,” she says.

CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

The study shows that there are far fewer women in the media houses surveyed in Zimbabwe than men - particularly in top and senior management. Although the study focused largely on print media, it painted a disturbing picture of very few women in the media overall as well as in senior positions; on most counts, the lowest in the region. The “glass ceiling” is created by the “old boys’ networks”, gender-insensitive work environments and the fact that “men feel threatened by a critical mass of women”. Men are usually encouraged to take up senior positions in a way that women are not. Women face glass ceilings in all departments, and although they are opening some cracks in news beats, the gender division of labour is still alive.

One of the key findings of this study is that there is a high level of commitment to gender equality in media houses, but there are no comprehensive and systematic policies and practices to narrow the gender gap. None of the media houses in Zimbabwe indicated they had policies, although the majority claimed they wanted a gender policy. Some of the respondents said there were elements of sexual-harassment policies within media houses, but these were not being effectively used to prevent harassment in newsrooms. Respondents were asked what should be done to promote gender balance in media houses. These were their responses:

The largest proportion of women (30%) thought a gender forum would do most to promote gender balance, whereas the largest proportion of men (27%) thought an overall gender policy would do this. Notably, one in four women (25%) thought a sexual-harassment policy should work hand-in-hand with an overall gender policy (25%) to redress current gender imbalances.

Key strategies for follow-up will include:

  • Awareness-raising and publicity through disseminating the findings of this research, and workshops to discuss the findings and forge strategies at regional and national level.
  • Following up on and supporting the 78% (both Zimbabwe and region) of media houses that expressed interest in developing a gender policy, or improving an existing one, to help eliminate gender inequalities. This will be done in tandem with the advocacy work around the global Glass Ceiling Study, as well as the 2009/2010 GMMP/GMBS on media content. The studies will enable advocacy groups to share with media houses data on gender in their institutional make up and media content.
  • Ensuring that there are functioning sexual-harassment policies in all media houses. 
  • Developing strategies that will ensure that the policies are implemented, such as tools for monitoring and evaluation, self-monitoring, career pathing etc, to make certain the goal of gender parity and sensitivity in newsrooms is achieved.
  • Networking with editors’ forums, media unions and media development NGOs in advocating methods to achieve the SADC Gender Protocol target.
  • Training and development programmes to build the capacity to manage mainstreaming gender at the workplace and in editorial content. 
  • Facilitating leadership training for women in media houses.
  • The bi-annual Gender and Media Summit, where awards will be made and best practices shared.
  • Carrying out another region-wide survey of the position of women and men in Southern Africa media houses in five years’ time, including Zimbabwe, as a way of gauging progress in achieving gender parity in media houses in Southern Africa

*Editors: Sikhonzile Ndlovu and Miriam Madziwa

Contact:
Gender Links
9 Derrick Avenue
Cyrildene, 2198
Johannesburg,
South Africa
Phone: 27 (11) 622 2877
Fax: 27 (11) 622 4732
Email: map@genderlinks.org.za
Website: www.genderlinks.org.za  

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