'Culture is the problem': Why simply hiring more women won't make your newsroom achieve true gender balance

  • 05-06-2019
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Just last month, Karen Martin, editor, BBC News, turned down a promotion at the broadcaster after discovering she was offered substantially less than a man for the same job.

“I’ve been assured our roles and responsibilities are the same. I’ve also been told my appointment was ‘very well deserved’. It’s just that I’m worth £12,000 less," she said, speaking at the 3rd Women in News Summit last week.

“For me it has never been about the actual salary. It has been about equal pay.”

Equal pay, equal rights, equal opportunity – the question of 'when will gender balance finally be achieved in newsrooms?' was discussed this year at the 71st World News Media Congress in Glasgow.

“I have received hundreds of messages of support from across the world,” said Martin, who noted she realises  ‘practicality sometimes comes before principles’ when it comes to these matters in the workplace.

“You also have to ask yourself how much aggregation can you stomach.”

But women have been sidelined for too long, said Carin Andersson, Human Resources Director, MittMedia Förvaltnings AB, Sweden.

Andersson, who has spent decades studying the issues of gender in the workplace, believes it all comes down to the culture of a newsroom.

“Change is happening so slowly within our organisations – we have to do much more to achieve gender equality in our workplaces," she said.

Back in 2014, Andersson was focused on gender balance within the sports department at MittMedia. With 100 per cent of the team male, she was keen to make a change.

“We talked to the CEO about how important it was for the business that we have women writing about hockey, football and athletics – I love these sports but we had 54 writers, and they were all male,” she said.

“We thought, next time we hire someone, we have to hire a woman. After two and a half years, there were 17 women working within the sports department... but I had created a big problem.”

Andersson found that these female reporters were working for only half a year before they resigned. One told her that she was sexually harassed as a result of taking on the job.

“I had to gather them all together – experienced, professional journalists – who explained to me what the problem was, and I was ashamed of how these women were treated by their colleagues and out doing the job in the field,” she said.

“It was clear that gender balance is not simply about hiring more women. For true gender balance, you need to transform the culture.

“We need to be training managers and employees on what gender balance is, what being respected at work should be like and what given the same opportunities and the same rights means.”

Since her realisation and the implementation of training, the sexual harassment has become a little better within the organisation, she said.

“We must all realise that it is not about gender balance anymore, it is the culture – and we need to act now.”


By Caroline Scott

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