Though many journalists are aware of the importance of gender inclusion in their reporting, women’s voices and perspectives remain under-represented in the media — according to the Global Media Monitoring Project, women make up only 24% of experts in news stories, cited in EJN’s own research from 2021, ‘Where are the Women: Insights from across Asia on the barriers to including women as sources and journalists in environmental reporting’.
This March, to mark International Women’s Month, we reached out to our global network to collect tips, resources and story ideas from reporters covering gender issues.
We asked: What advice would you give to journalists looking to report with a gender lens? What are some resources you've found helpful or would recommend for journalists wanting to improve their coverage of gender issues?
Read on for some insightful guidance from your peers around the world:
Lia Valero from Colombia had some advice for early-career women journalists getting started in the field: “Be persistent. Journalism can be a tough field, and it can take time to establish yourself. Don’t be discouraged by setbacks, and keep going,” she wrote. For Spanish-speaking journalists, she recommended a guide made for journalists and communicators by Periodismo de Barrio and Afrocubanas.
Valero also encouraged journalists to seek out diverse sources, challenge their own biases and participate in industry events to network and build connections.
Advice from Fidelis Eka Satriastanti in Indonesia echoed her comments: “Read a lot. Always come early before any coverage. Do your research diligently,” she wrote. Satriastanti also shared a story from China Dialogue about why women’s leadership is key to climate action.
Nonhlanhla Ngwenya in Zimbabwe shared a study from WAN-IFRA highlighting the extent of sexual harassment in newsrooms, from January 2022. The study, the largest of its kind to focus on both men, women and gender non-conforming journalists in 20 countries, found that on average, 41% of women journalists have experienced harassment in the workplace. Yet only 1 in 5 reported it, and only 11% said they knew whether their organization had a policy on sexual harassment.
“Educate yourself about the basic media laws, especially related to harassment,” said Sameen Aziz, a journalist from Pakistan. Aziz also highlighted resources from the Digital Rights Foundation and UNESCO.
Liliana Buitrago from Venezuela reiterated the importance of including women’s voices and shared a checklist from BBC Media Action on how to develop gender-sensitive and gender-transformative programs. For journalists, the checklist provides an opportunity to incorporate related questions into their work, such as when developing angles or interviewing sources.
Alick Ponje in Malawi had several suggestions for journalists looking for story ideas on gender issues, including reviewing gender quality acts or laws and their enforcement; and the way national budgets include gender issues, such as allocations for maternal health care. Also from Malawi, journalist Florence Mwale had some more advice: “Do not be afraid to take on big stories,” she said. “Challenge yourself and get out of your comfort zone.”
For South Asian journalists, Zoya Hussain in India recommended UN Women and the OECD’s gender landing page as data resources for journalists, plus research from the Brookings Institution’s India Center.
From Vandana K, also from India, comes several helpful resources, especially for other women journalists in the region: She recommended the Prajnya Gender Talks with Sameera Khan and the Laadli Media Fellowship orientation workshop, both available on YouTube.
Vandana also shared her recent story published by BehanBox, a media outlet which centers voices, concerns, aspirations and achievements of women and gender-diverse persons in India. She investigated why women in a nearby locality had returned to traditional cooking stoves instead of gas, a story idea she uncovered through conversations with local women. Through a fellowship from the National Foundation for India, she revealed that gas subsidies intended for these women were not reaching them.
“Keep your eyes open. Listen carefully to what women and people of other marginalized gender identities are talking about,” she said. “Every time you read the news, look for women’s stories and quotes in that piece of news. If they are missing and you know that they make up important pieces of the puzzle, that could be your new story idea.”
Check out the full list of resources our network recommends:
- WAN-IFRA's global study on sexual harassment in newsrooms
- Media through gender lenses: A male dominated world of the media
- UN Women’s data on women’s rights in India
- Global Health Strategies
- OECD Gender Equality
- Gender issues in India: an amalgamation of resources
- Prajnya Gender Talks || October 2022 || Sameera Khan || Still Half the Story
- Orientation workshop for Laadli Media Fellowship
- Digital Rights Foundation
- UNESCO: Media pluralism and gender
- IJNet: Tips to enhance diversity in your reporting
- GIJN: Resources for women journalists
- Race and gender manual for communications professionals, journalists, publicists, artists and creators
For more resources and recommendations, check out EJN’s research report, ‘Where are the Women: Insights from across Asia on the barriers to including women as sources and journalists in environmental reporting’. Our researchers examined how journalists in the Asia-Pacific region think about gender, what barriers they face when seeking to include women’s voices in their stories and how socio-cultural norms can create challenges to inclusion. Researchers advised: “Journalists seeking more gender balance or women’s voices in their stories should not shy away from explicitly asking for female experts in fields that are traditionally male dominated.”
Achieving gender parity of sources is key — but so is gender representation in newsrooms. The Gates Foundation's commissioned report, ‘From Outrage to Opportunity: How to Include the Missing Perspectives of Women of All Colors in News Leadership and Coverage’ is a solutions-focused report that highlights the harsh realities for women in news leadership and coverage in six countries.
Other studies show that where women control news content, it tends to be more gender-sensitive and representative. Women journalists are also more likely to challenge gender stereotypes, raise gender inequality issues, and reference legislation or policy that promote gender equality or human rights.
Banner image: A woman sits outside in front of her traditional wood-fired stove in Delhi, India / Credit: Vandana K for BehanBox.