Gender Inequality In The Media – Awareness Is Key

By Louisa Rothmer

People often think that women and men are treated equally in countries like Austria. That is true for the most part. Men and women are equal in front of the law, they have the same human rights and can mostly achieve the same level of education. But if we take a closer look, women still don’t get the same job opportunities as men, even though they are as highly educated as male job applicants. In the media sector phenomenons like the glass ceiling, a barrier that holds women back from getting a higher ranked job or the gender pay gap still exist today.

In Austria the number of female journalists is rising constantly. Currently there are almost as many female journalists as there are male. The real gender difference is visible though if you look at higher ranked jobs in the industry. Women usually get the lower-ranked positions, which don’t have the power to make decisions for the company. This really affects the content in the media and how it is represented, since men and women make decisions differently and prioritize different aspects. For example which news-value is most important when choosing the content for the news channels. Men tend to choose more negative topics and women also like to report about positive news.  Another key issue is that women mostly work in areas within the media company that the society considers to be “women-topics”, like lifestyle, beauty and fashion. There are less women working in areas like politics, economics or sports, which are deemed to be topics more suitable for men.  

When looking at the actions media companies take to challenge these inequalities, there is a big difference between the public broadcasting service ORF and the other private media companies. ORF is legally obliged to take action steps and are doing so by implementing their “Gleichstellungsplan”. Other media companies are not forced to take action and are therefore doing less to work on the issues.

By working on our project, we soon realized that it is not that easy to find valid information on all the journalists and that there is little information on the gender ratio of journalists  in Austria. It was difficult finding a source that provided all the information we wanted to collect. And we had to limit our categories and ideas from time to time. Often the information found was not up to date or was not complete. That was one of the biggest challenges we faced. We tried to solve that problem by using the data off of the Indexverlag and also using the data that’s provided on the website of the different media channels.

Our research group in this project only consisted of women. And in my opinion that alone shows a big issue. Namely that mostly women are interested in talking and learning about the topic of gender equality and gender mainstreaming. Since men are mostly in positions of charge and have the power to change policies in their companies, it is important that they are equally invested in learning about this topic and taking actions to make a difference                                       That doesn’t mean that women are powerless of course. With projects like ours we can raise awareness about this topic. Awareness is key in challenging gender inequalities, because only if a lot of people are aware of a problem, the motivation to change something in our society rises. And as a female student who is likely to work in the media soon I think my future role contains continuing to bring awareness to these issues and work on more projects like this one.

All things considered there are still big differences between male and female journalists. Most of all in their position within the company. The people in charge are mostly men and educated women don’t get the high positions and the wage that they deserve. These are issues that need to be worked on in order to achieve the goal of gender equality. What stands out is that awareness needs to be raised. There is little data on the gender ratio and an important step into the right direction is knowing what the situation is like now for female journalists in Austria. By knowing that, it is possible to see the most important issues, find the right solutions and take action to make gender equality in the media a reality. We all, men and women, need to start talking about these issues, so let´s start talking equal!

Verfasst von Louisa Rothmer

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