Editor’s Memo: Gender inequality: Time to shatter status quo

Faith Zaba

AS we wind up the campaign on 16 days of activism against gender-based violence (GBV), which is an annual event that begins on November 25 and runs to December 10, this week I want to speak on two issues that break my heart.

I will touch briefly on sexual harassment and focus mainly on gender discrimination at the work place following research findings on leadership mapping in the media industry released by Wan-Ifra’s Women in News (WIN), which revealed the huge gender gap in top leadership positions. Women also still lag behind men in pay.

According to Global Partnership, “women are responsible for 60% of work done globally yet earn just 10% income and 1% of property. In Africa, 70% of women are excluded financially. The continent has a US$42 billion financing gap between men and women”.

Sexual harassment

This year, the UN marks the 16 Days under the theme “UNiTE! Activism to end violence against women and girls”.

According to a global study analysing sexual harassment in newsrooms released by WIN in June this year, “new data from a global study analysing sexual harassment in 20 countries finds, on average, 40% of women media professionals have experienced sexual harassment of some kind in the workplace. Women and gender non-conforming media professionals are almost three and a half times more likely to experience harassment than men”.

These statistics are scary. We must stop framing it as just inappropriate behaviour. It’s a serious violation of human rights and an attack on dignity and physical and psychological integrity.

Gender discrimination

Results from WIN’s latest research on Leadership Mapping in the media industry demonstrate that a significant gender gap exists within the highest ranks of power of the media.

“By bringing attention to this imbalance, we aim to encourage media to look internally at how they can #breakthebias,” the research states.

The research looked at 192 media companies within the 17 countries in which WIN operates in Africa, the Arab Region, and Southeast Asia.

“Ultimately, the women, while there are still underrepresented. Steps towards gender equality in positions of leadership remain slow. Evidence suggests that women receive insufficient development, gender differences between men and women play a role, and anti-woman bias predicates against progression,” part of the report reads.

In African, just 9% of top business posts (for an example at chief executive and chair positions) are taken up by women and 33% are in top editorial positions (editor-n-chief or executive editor posts).

Zimbabwe was ranked as one of the countries with the lowest representation of women holding highest business and top editorial positions in Africa. 

In Zimbabwe, women take up only 12% of top business posts and 18 top editorial positions. The story is the same in every sector – media, corporate world, government and politics.This is simply unacceptable.

This calls on media companies to work towards newsrooms that are equitable, inclusive and free from bias and discrimination so that the playing field is levelled for women moving forward.

Women cannot continue to suffer disadvantages in a society that perpetuates patriarchy.

Last week, I was amazed to see female students at Midlands State University dominating the prize winners. The fact that there were fewer women at the top is because societies continue to provide unequal opportunities for women to succeed.

We all have granddaughters, daughters, sisters and nieces, for how long should nations continue to perpetuate gender discrimination. Why should women have to work 10 times more to prove themselves?We must address societal norms that perpetuate disadvantages, biases and exclusion.

We have to be deliberate in our recruitment, providing equal opportunities and introducing succession plans that boost gender diversity.

As with technology, we also need creative and disruptive approaches. However, we still have a long way to go, especially in companies, where the adage glass ceiling is still relevant.

But without drastic action, the globe will have failed a generation and generations to come.

It is time we shatter toxic masculinity and work towards political, economic and social gender equality.

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