COVID-19 has increased gender inequalities in the media, IFJ survey finds

More than half of women journalists have experienced increased gender inequalities due to COVID-19, according to a new survey conducted by International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) among more than 500 women journalists in 52 countries, published on 23 July.

The world’s largest organisation of professional journalists and its Gender Council call on media organisations and trade unions to make gender equality a priority in their response to the pandemic and demand concrete steps to provide their female colleagues with decent working conditions.

The IFJ  survey on the effects of Covid-19 on women journalists was conducted between 19 -30 June.

More than half of the respondents acknowledged an increase in gender inequalities in the industry, with devastating consequences on their conciliation of work and private life (62%), work responsibilities (46%) and salaries (27%).

The survey of 558 women journalists, among whom 66% were union members, also revealed that as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic:

  • Over ¾ of respondents saw their level of stress increase, half of them pointing at multiple tasking as the main cause;
  • More than half of the respondents said their health had been affected which resulted for almost ¾ of them in sleeping problems;
  • Only 4 in 10 women journalists claimed they received protective equipment from their employers;
  • More than half of the respondents claim unions have not developed any specific strategies to tackle gender inequalities during the pandemic;
  • 60% said their industry had provided some form of protocol for teleworking;
  • More than ¾ of respondents said the level of harassment (including online) and bullying have not increased during the crisis;
  • A third of respondents claimed they worked “mainly from home” and another third  has worked mainly in the office. 15% worked mostly in the field;

Respondents listed diverse reasons as causes of stress including working in isolation, bullying from bosses, family caring and home schooling, domestic tensions, increased workload and the usual tight deadlines, long working hours, psychological impact of COVID coverage, fear of job loss.

A journalist from Indonesia said: “I fear losing work. Some media have closed or cut their contributors and decreased their middle-top level salaries. I am afraid my office will close too. I am also stressed with internet connection and strong attention in front of the laptop all day/night.”

“In every heterosexual couple I know the woman has borne the brunt of the situation”, a journalist from Spain said. “Women are working from home, juggling childcare and educating children alongside their job. Some have taken reduced hours to cope with this, others have had to risk their vulnerable parents’ health for childcare instead of the father taking on anywhere near half of these duties. “

Respondents made concrete recommendations for improving teleworking protocols such as the need for employers to provide adequate working equipment including adequate bandwidth, define working hours and breaks, and understand the reality of working from home while caring for children.

Over 2/3 of respondents pointed at the negative impact of media funding cuts on the industry’s gender strategies. Respondents denounced the focus on profit and competition which would exclude work on gender and change media priorities and the most precarious situation of women which make them most affected by social plans and paid less.

Overall, most respondents agreed that the best strategies to achieve a gender equal new normal were economic in nature: more funding, better salaries, more opportunities for career advancements.

“Striving for gender equality must be tackled as a priority. Balance between private and working hours should be clearly stated. Wage-equality is to be considered the new ‘ normal’,” a photographer from Switzerland said.

IFJ Gender Council Chair Maria Angeles Samperio said: “Media and unions  must do much more to tackle gender inequalities and take into account the conciliation of work and private life in these turbulent times.  They must hear the calls from women who have been deeply affected by stress during COVID-19 and respond to it. It is time to set up proper teleworking policies, ensure support is provided to women as family careers and provide decent work and equal pay.”

IFJ General Secretary Anthony Bellanger said: “We call on our affiliates to put gender equality at the top of their agenda  and reflect on how best they can support their female affiliates. Such support includes providing data on women in the profession, mainstreaming gender in all activities, offering training, putting women in leading roles in unions’ own structures, setting up women committees and gender policies and negotiating better deals for women with media managers. It is urgent to change the narrative for a strong gender new normal.


Note for Editors:

  • 558 journalists took part in the survey from 52 countries – Argentina, Australia, Austria, Bahrain, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Cameroon, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Finland, France, Gambia, Germany, Greece, Guatemala, Guinea, Honduras, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Ireland, Italy, Mexico, Myanmar, Namibia, Pakistan, Palestine, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Russia, Slovenia, Somalia, Spain, Sri Lanka, Switzerland, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, Uganda, United Kingdom, Uruguay, United States.
  • Read the full results of the survey
  • Download the infographics
  • Dowload the survey quesions
  • Further reading: IFJ survey on  The crisis facing journalism in the face of Covid-19 (April 2020) and its impact on women

Source: International Federation of Journalists, Sarajevo, 24/07/2020

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