The Malta Independent 13 July 2020, Monday

Women in the media: Malta well below EU average in decision-making roles, study finds

Helena Grech Wednesday, 7 March 2018, 09:30 Last update: about 3 years ago

The number of women who take up decision-making positions in the media is well below the EU average, at 16 per cent and 30 per cent respectively.

A study was commissioned by the European Parliament’s Policy Department for Citizens’ Rights and Constitutional Affairs at the request of the Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality.

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Among the authors was Professor Brenda Murphy, head of department of Gender Studies at the University of Malta.

The study seeks to examine the key issues plaguing gender equality in the media, provides key findings and recommendations while also provides a literature review on the issue. In addition, it also outlines various conventions, policy documents, directives and other initiatives which shape gender equality policy and agenda as we know it today.

Malta was used as a case study, along with the United Kingdom, Sweden and Austria. Of the four case studies, Malta was found to have the lowest representation of women in decision-making roles in the media.

When taking a look at women in decision-making roles in the Maltese public broadcasting company, Malta remains well below the EU average while there are zero women in the positions of CEO, executive or non-executive directors.

Looking at the global figures for women in decision-making roles across all Maltese media, just two women occupy the posts of CEOs (Maltese average zero per cent, EU average 16 per cent), while eight women occupy the position of board members (Maltese average 38 per cent, EU average 25 per cent).

A total of four women occupy Chief Operating Officer roles (Maltese average zero per cent, EU average 21 per cent), 21 women make up ‘other operational managers’ (Maltese average 19 per cent, EU average 32 per cent), eight women are Heads of Directorate/Unit (Maltese average zero per cent, EU average 36 per cent) and lastly, zero women occupy positions as heads of department.

For the case-study, 10 women were interviewed at length. Six work in various forms of media such as print, television news, gaming, social media and programme production management. Three respondents work in women’s organisation while one respondent works in a media regulatory body.

A range of issues were covered, one of which was the way women are portrayed in the media and gender stereotypes. Various women noted key differences in reporting on men vs. reports on women.

“One respondent working for a women’s organisation noted that, in general, women appear in soft, ‘housewifely’ programmes on radio and TV, and that even if they are reading the news, there are men above them,” reads one testimony.

Another respondent called for positive stereotypes to be used, such as when describing protesting women, rather than using a negative adjective, words such as “plucky” and “brave” could be used instead.

One typical example of stereotyping provided was how women are almost always identified by their family role. When describing women, very often one of the first pieces of information given is that she is ‘a mother of three’. This is rarely used in the case of men.

“A man would never be described as a ‘father of two’. Women are constantly identified by their family role,” one respondent said.

One respondent working in a women’s organisation described the stereotypes found in the media as a reflection of the national psyche: “a combination of the cultural norms of a Mediterranean culture and a strong religious, non-secular culture”.

A respondent who works in social media observed that content uploaded to the social media sector can be more careful when it comes to the use of negative stereotypes, “given the potential for immediate backlash”.

She suggests that this provides a perspective which TV and radio lack.

Sexual harassment and discrimination in promotions were also discussed by respondents. Out of all the issues mentioned, the highest degree of variance was found in the work culture of various newsrooms and the flexibility of family-friendly conditions.

The study was also co-authored by Katie McCracken, Director at Opcit Research, Dr Ana FitzSimons and Dr Sarah Pries, senior researchers at Opcit Research and Syvlia Girstmair, Researcher at Opcit Research.

The manuscript was published in January 2018.

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