Making Change: Towards Gender Equality in the Media

2014-12-18 08:47

How can media promote gender equality? What influence can be achieved by activists? How can research contribute to the knowledge about gender equality? These are the topics of a new anthology. 

On 4th December in Vilnius, Nordicom, EIGE and Nordic Council of Ministers office in Lithuania hosted the final event of the project Nordic Gender & Media Forum: the launch of the anthology “Making Change. Nordic Examples of Working Towards Gender Equality in the Media”. The book presents good practices and a compilation of statistical data from Nordic private and public media companies and organisations.

One of the editors of the book, Maria Edström stressed that people in the media industry are aware of gender equality, they talk about it, but now it’s time to step up and make change. Experiences from the Nordic countries could therefore be one useful reference point about what has actually been done to address equality in the media.

“The book is hopefully helpful and useful to a broad group of users. The media can promote gender equality or ridicule efforts towards gender equality. We have published it to create a dialogue and show that there are many ways to achieve gender equality. Both structural and individual initiatives can contribute to change. Sometimes you don’t even need money or funding, all you need is a good idea,” explained Maria Edström.

“Our book will be available in the online archive of University of Gothenburg and on the Nordicom website, free of charge for everyone to get acquainted with and get inspired by the existing initiatives. It is divided into sections, so if you work in journalism, you will search for and read about the examples from that area. But the book can also be seen as a meeting point for a cross over discussion between different areas of the media sphere.”

The existence and quality of data varies

Ulrika Facht, analyst at Nordicom, who was responsible for data compilation, has gathered information from four types of media that are covered in the book: film, journalism, computer games and advertising.

“The access to data on gender equality varies from industry to industry. We have found comparable data on film and journalism, whereas it has been difficult to find solid numbers on the balance between women and men in advertising and especially in the gaming industry. The gaming industry has not been so interested to say this is a problem. Although, with a few exceptions, the data compiled show that an industry can have as many women as men working within it, but men hold the majority of top level positions. Data from international studies on journalism show similar patterns between the Nordic and the Baltic countries.”

Industry best practice examples

The projects described in the book are there to promote various ways in which society and individuals can make a change towards more equality. Some initiatives have been successfully implemented in more than one country. “The example of the film industry from Sweden shows how a simple idea can spread rapidly”, said Maria Edström.

“The A-rating is an initiative implemented by four Swedish cinemas based on three simple questions: Are there two or more women characters, do they have names? Do they talk to each other? Do they talk to each other about something besides men? If the answers are positive, the movie gets the A-rating (for Approved). Alison Bechdel formulated these three questions back in 1985 in the so called Bechdel Test. Almost 30 years later, four Swedish cinemas created a huge debate about representation in film and got widespread media coverage allover the world.”

According to Anita Frank Goth, Head of Communications at KVINFO in Denmark, the society is not aware of the problem with women’s representation in media especially when it comes to journalism. It is a global problem which GMM’s report “Who Makes the News” also has showed since 1995. The first one from many extraordinary practices described in the book is KVINFO’s online expert database presenting 1178 profiles of Danish women. Here the journalists have an easy access to female experts from all areas of the society, including scientists and researchers, managers, politicians, and persons from the world of arts and culture.

Gender and age affect the gender of experts in media

“In 2013 a survey by EIGE shows that in Denmark 81 % of experts on television are men, and compared to 1982 where 86 % of the sources were men on the Danish news, you can conclude not much has happened in media,” said Anita Frank Goth (right).

”And with the gender problem also follows  an age problem in the media. Up to the age of 34, women and men are represented equally on television in Denmark. After 35, the number is decreasing. And after 50, only 23 percent of people appearing on television are women. And when it comes to experts people are often older than the age of 34, before they can call themselves an expert.”

The Baltic countries were not included in the project. However, their good practices and ideas were given due attention at the seminar. Latvian children’s television analysis has revealed some worrying statistics. As it is the media that helps introduce kids to notions of gender, there is a great lack of representation of female characters (ratio 1:3).

Estonia presented a promising commercial campaign mocking gender stereotypes. Inspired by Germany, the Estonian Ministry of Social Affairs organizes non-typical career days for students to encourage uncommon career choices.

Lithuanian representative Laima Kreivytė presented the feminist group “Cooltūristės” and their three-part exhibition “Postidea”. The concept of the initiative was not to complain, but to make a gesture using mainstream strategies.

“Both radical feminist and political approaches are needed to achieve the objective,” Kreivytė, art critic and curator, said.

Author Nadia Kostigova
show more news ›