It’s 2019 but women barely figure in top positions, panels and pages in the media

The number of women in top leadership positions across Indian newsrooms stood at 13.6 per cent for magazines, 20.9 per cent for TV channels, 26.3 per cent for digital portals and less than 5 per cent for newspapers.

ByCherry Agarwal
It’s 2019 but women barely figure in top positions, panels and pages in the media
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The media industry has long championed the cause of women’s representation—from women’s entry into Sabarimala to the Women’s Reservation Bill. However, they seem to have done little to ensure adequate representation in their top leadership positions, on their pages and panels, a recent study shows. 

Gender Inequality in Indian Media is an attempt to quantify gender diversity across Indian newsrooms. The report is a Media Rumble initiative, done in partnership with UN Women. It analyses Hindi and English newspapers, TV news channels, magazines and digital outlets, among others. The report was unveiled on August 2. The data collection and content analysis was done over a period of three months. The data that was analysed was based on content published over a six-month period, October 2018 to March 2019. 

Among newspapers, the study looks at six English newspapers and seven Hindi newspapers. A total of 14 English and Hindi TV news channels, 12 magazines, 11 digital portals and five radio channels across 10 cities were reviewed, meaning a total to 55 media organisations.

Less than 5* per cent of newsroom leadership positions across newspapers are occupied by women, the study found. The number stands at 13.6 per cent for magazines, 20.9 per cent for TV channels and 26.3 per cent for digital portals. The report limits top leadership positions to designations such as editor-in-chief, managing editor, executive editor, bureau chief and/or input/output editor. Due to this limitation, the likes of The Hindu’s Malini Parthasarathy and Hindustan Times’ Harinder Baweja were left out. 

English and Hindi newspapers

More than 27,000 articles were reviewed. Of the 20,000 English language articles, only 20.4 per cent  are written by women. For Hindi newspapers, this number is way lower: of the 7,800 articles reviewed, only 11 per cent are authored by women. Of the six English dailies, The Telegraph did the worst. 

Between the two languages, the space given to women on front-pages of Hindi newspapers is worse. Only 5 per cent of front-page articles across Hindi newspapers are authored by women. This number stands at 27 per cent for English dailies. 

The study also reviewed gender composition across topics/issues. It shows that women still find limited space when it comes to topics such as defence and national security, and sports. Across English dailies, only 10.5 per cent of defence and national security articles and a mere 6 per cent of sports articles are authored by women. Across Hindi dailies, women contribute the lowest number of articles on topics such as crime and accidents, and defence and national security. Women write only one article for every 25 defence and national security articles carried by Hindi papers.

Hindi and English TV news

Only 22.4 per cent of English TV news panellists are women. This number dips significantly for Hindi TV news, where only 9.3 per cent of panellists are women. Over 70 per cent of Hindi TV news debates feature all-male panels (also known as manels). For English TV news, this number stands at 53 per cent. Rajya Sabha TV and NDTV India have the highest proportion of all-male panels across English and Hindi TV news channels. 

While some women panellists on English TV news panels are bureaucrats, defence experts, financial experts or think tank representatives, Hindi TV news has no female panellists belonging to these expert groups. The study shows that Rajya Sabha TV and Republic Bharat have the worst gender representation overall across English and Hindi TV news channels respectively. 

Gender representation among TV news anchors looks better as the number of male and female anchors is equal. Despite this number, men moderate almost three times more debates than women in Hindi news channels. Sigh.

Digital media, radio and magazines 

Articles published by digital outlets reviewed in the study present a more gender diverse picture—though there’s still space for improvement. Of the 20,976 articles reviewed by the study, almost 40 per cent of the articles are authored by women. The numbers are 20 and 11 per cent respectively for English and Hindi newspapers.

Newslaundry Hindi has the lowest number of women contributors, approximately 12 per cent. Among English language digital portals, Swarajya (14.9 per cent) has the fewest articles authored by women. 

For online portals, topic-wise gender distribution sees women writing more than 50 per cent of the articles in categories such as crime and accidents, culture and entertainment, state and policy, and public life. The lowest number of women-authored articles are on topics such as sports (13.8 per cent), science and technology (15.4 per cent), and defence and national security (21.9 per cent). 

For magazines, women-authored articles make up only 25.8 per cent of the 982 articles reviewed. While Femina did the best with over 96 per cent articles written by women, Outlook Hindi did the worst with only 5.4 per cent of its articles authored by women. 

The largest number of women-authored articles feature in the culture and entertainment category. Women wrote 49.4 per cent of articles in this category. Defence and national security saw the lowest number of articles authored by women: 6.6 per cent. 

To quantify gender diversity across radio channels, the study reviewed five private radio channels in 10 cities. In only two of the cities, women outnumber men. While Radio Mirchi comes out looking the best with over 55 per cent of its radio jockeys being female, Fever FM performs the worst, with only 34.7 per cent female radio jockeys. 

Methodology 

The study used the method of “byline count” to determine the representation of women in print and digital media. The study states: “Every bylined article was categorised according to the gender of the writer, and the proportion of articles written by women was calculated.”

For broadcast media, the study deduced the gender of the anchor or debate panellist from their appearance, and verified the same against their publicly available profiles. For more details about the methodology, scope and limitations of the the report, click here

The study makes it amply clear that the media industry has a long way to go to ensure gender diversity across newsrooms, on its pages, and panels. However, given this report is a preliminary analysis, much can be done to improve the robustness and accuracy of the data collection process. 

Note: The report currently shows this number as zero, it will be updated to reflect the new figure. 

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