Women’s experiences in the media industry have been studied globally and the results are similar across board. You hear about “glass ceilings, gender pay gaps, unfair dismissals around maternity, lack of access to jobs or training, and harassment.
According to a 2017 survey of 85 media outlets in Nigeria by REPORTWOMEN.ORG; the ratio of male to female editorial board members in newsrooms was nine to one. Explaining the data, the Coordinator; Wole Soyinka Center For Investigative Journalism; Motunrayo Alaka says “the survey does show that the gap is less obvious while both the female and male reporters are in mid-career level, but the symmetry changes at the management level as the females literally disappear,”.
With the emergence of digital media platforms, Nigerian women interested in the media space now have more access to publishing content without necessarily being formally employed by a media organisation. But does the seeming availability of platform translate to equal opportunities and growth for women in the media industry?
What about women who are employees of media platforms?
Eno Johnson (not her real name) has been a reporter and producer for nine years in a government owned media organisation. Working as an online editor now; she actively looks out to improve herself by applying for trainings and paying her way.
“Getting access to training and work opportunities in the media industry has been difficult because I work for an organisation that is rather rigid and the power structures are controlled by the old guard. Times have changed and i know that if I don’t take charge of my personal development, nobody would” She said.
Victimized For Being Pregnant.
Ruth John was an effective editor and thrived in her newsroom; until she became pregnant. Then came the side comments and subtle digs at her competence and finally being taken from her beat and confined to a weekend desk assignment.
“I felt witch-hunted. It was like they were looking for an easy way to shove me out. When I asked to remain on my beat, I was told to either take the desk assignment or resign. I resigned. She resigned.
It’s A Boy’s Club
Sports Journalism has long been considered a male dominated space and female sports journalists have to work extra hard to break into what can often seem like a boys only club. For freelance sports writer; Adanna Lucy Ukwa, the first barrier for female journalists is access. Talking about her experiences covering local women’s football leagues, Adanna said “working freelance is extra hard because very few media organisations finance stories covering female sports. Male sports typically get the major coverage because that’s where the money is.”
Laiatu Bamaiyi is the chairperson of the Nigeria Association of Women Journalists (NAWOJ) in Kebbi and she thinks women journalists are no longer ‘unfairly treated’ since they became officially recognised through the organisation in 1987. According to Laiatu, “the association’s mission is to encourage women to become journalists and to support the development of existing journalists to become respected members of their newsrooms, while ensuring that Nigeria’s media has a strong and active female contingent”.
While professional bodies have indeed helped female journalists find their voices through trainings and partnerships, it is not enough. Not all female journalists are members of these bodies. Newsrooms are still largely male dominated and controlled and not intentional about inclusion.
While it is important to train women in the media, it is also important for media management to open opportunities for women to step into leadership positions and to be deliberate about policies that include women. For there to really be an equal world, works paces and conditions have to be conducive for both female and male journalists.