Stay Skeptical

By Sena Karadeniz

The concept of Gender Mainstreaming is a tool for institutions and organizations to supervision and analyze the role of gender in their respective workplace by creating a structured plan of how to ensure gender equality as well as mutual respect among humans (Stiegler 2005). This includes equal payment no matter the gender, but it also means supporting each other in a way that women’s opinions get heard and in a way that they do not have disadvantages on their career path on the way to the top because of their gender. It is not an end goal as much as a constant state that one has to try keep up.

As for Austria, a law on gender equality has been passed in 1979 to guarantee equal pay for men and women in the workplace (Kirchhoff and Prandner 2016). Concerning the field of media, in the public service provider ORF the so-called Gleichstellungsplan [Equal Opportunities Plan] has been introduced as a way of making progress in the topic of discrimination against women. Behind this idea stands a group of women of the ORF who call themselves the Task Force. Since this has happened, progress can be seen: Since 2012, the percentage of women has risen in nearly every occupation group (ibid), however, one would agree that there still is a lot to do. This can be seen, for example, in statistics that say Austrian women are more likely to get paid less for the same work than their male peers even though they usually have a higher education (Dorer 2002). Furthermore, data of 2012 has shown that positions of administration at the ORF were very considerably higher occupied by men than by women (Kirchhoff and Prandner 2016).

The role of policy in addressing gender inequalities is insofar important as it enables staff to keep thinking critically about the norms in their organization. These rules do not have to be liked by everyone but unfortunately, they are needed in order to make a change. Any form of external force by policy, considering the rules are well thought out, will help to improve working conditions, making them fair for everyone and enabling women to reach top positions.

For this university project, I was part of the qualitative research group where it was our task to prepare a guided interview (based on two research questions) which we would then carry out with each of the eight representatives of the Task Force. The interviews have been done in groups of two, meaning two people met up with one representative at a time to interview her. After we had decided on the research questions, the only thing that was left to do was to think of adequate questions that would help us get to the information we were looking for. Of course, we were very lucky to get the opportunity to interview women who have been working in the field of media and journalism for many years and have put their focus on gender equality, so we got the chance to get information straight from the experts. The challenge was to find well thought out questions but moreover, to be attentive listeners and not hesitate to ask critical questions where they are due. Limitations with this method for me personally, I have to admit, were my absolute lack of interviewing skills. I do recommend daring to interrupt your interviewee if they spend too much time talking on one topic and repeat themselves a lot. Both of your time is valuable so you have to make the most of it. Ultimately, however, with the combination of being well-prepared and hopefully having nice interview partners who are willing to help you out, just as we did, it will work out.

All in all, it was an intellectually stimulating experience which made me think critically about my future role as media professional in adhering to challenging gendered practices of media production. I believe the most important thing is to challenge people’s ideas and standards of what is normal and locally (or universally) accepted. In our interview with Mrs Wolf, state di- rector of ORF Vienna, she talked about the way things were when she had just started out working at the ORF. Having been surrounded by men only, it used to be absolutely out of question for her to speak up about issues because it would have been seen as disrespectful and out of place. She then proceeded to tell us about a recent case where her young female friend had no problems confronting her male boss about a problem – and she got respected for it. Stories like these show us how much has changed the past 20 years – in a positive way. But as Mrs Wolf recommends: “If things go way too easy for you, keep your eyes peeled. Stay skeptical.”

Literature:
Dorer, Johanna (2002): Berufliche Situation österreichischer Journalistinnen, in Johanna Do- rer/Brigitte Geiger (eds.). Feministische Kommunikations- und Medienwissenschaft, Opladen: Westdeutscher Verlag

Kirchhoff, Susanne/Dimitri Prandner (2017): “Working Conditions, Representation and Measures Towards Gender Equality”, in: Karen Ross, Claudia Padovani (Ed.): Gender Equality and the Media: A Challenge for Europe, New York: Routledge. P. 47-59.

Stiegler, Barbara (2005): „Gender Mainstreaming, Frauenförderung, Diversity oder Antidiskriminierungspolitik: was führt wie zur Chancengleichheit?“, in: Zeitschrift für Frauenforschung und Geschlechterstudien. 23(2005)3. P. 9-35.

Links:
„Gleichstellungsplan“, in: ORF Public Value, available in: https://zukunft.orf.at/rte/upload/isabelle/gleichstellungsplan2016-fuer_extern.pdf (13.07.2019)

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