Women and leadership in the news media 2021: evidence from 12 markets

Pamella Makotsi Sittoni from 'Daily Nation', Encarna Samitier from '20 minutos', Nwabisa Makunga from 'The ...
Pamella Makotsi Sittoni from 'Daily Nation', Encarna Samitier from '20 minutos', Nwabisa Makunga from 'The Sowetan' and Katharine Viner from 'The Guardian'. PHOTOS | REUTERS INSTITUTE

In Summary

  • The study focused on the top 10 offline (TV, print and radio) and online news brands in terms weekly usage.
  • 22% of the 180 top editors across the 240 brands covered are women.
  • On average, this is substantially below the 40% of journalists in the 12 markets who are women.
  • The share of online news consumers who say that they read news from at least one major outlet with a female top editor ranges from 94% in Kenya to 0% in Japan.

The clear majority of top editors across 240 major online and offline news outlets in 12 different markets across four continents are men, a Reuters Institute study has found.

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According to the researchers, South Africa was the only market found to have a majority of women among top editors.

“While there is a positive correlation between the percentage of women working as journalists and the percentage of women among top editors, there is a lower proportion of women in top roles than women in the profession as a whole,” the report reads.

The authors of the study are Craig T. Robertson (Research Fellow at the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism), Meera Selva (Deputy Director and Director of the Journalist Fellowship Programme at the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism) and Rasmus Kleis Nielsen (Director of the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism and Professor of Political Communication at the University of Oxford).

In South Africa, a majority of the top editors were found to be women: 62% of journalists and 60% of top editors in our sample are women.

The study however found no clear interpretable relationship between overall gender equality in society and the percentage of women among top editors.

The authors stated that their findings underline that there are specific dynamics at play in journalism and the news media.

They acknowledged that the last year has seen an increasing reckoning with the frequent lack of diversity in newsrooms, especially in top positions.

However, they found no clear overall trend towards greater gender equality in top editorial positions from 2020 to 2021.

“While there are more women (16%) among the 37 new names in our dataset than among those who held the same posts last year (14%), the number is still comparatively low. So despite greater focus on diversity, we find no significant evidence of change,” the authors said.

Reports indicate that several important news brands will be appointing new top editors in the year ahead and many journalists are pushing for more diverse leadership and the study avers that some news media are publicly recognising how they have fallen short on diversity for a long time.

“We will know more about how this might change the overall profile when we repeat this analysis in 2022 to track developments in gender equality among top editors across the world,” the authors said.

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