2020 – a Brief Glance at Improvement

Bild © Claudio Schwarz

by Marie Eisenblätter, Nicole Epp, Kathleen Farkalits, Lorena Ladevic, Nina-Chiara Mengelers, Merve Özcan and Barbara Lisa Weber

In the course of our FOPRAX seminar we had the rare opportunity to be a part of the Pilot Study of this year’s Global Media Monitoring Project. This study aims to determine the percentage and portrayal of women in the media and whether or not a gender-neutral language was used in the news reporting.

The following paper deals with reflecting on the results and findings of the GMMP 2020 Pilot Study Austria and making action proposals with regards to mainstreaming gender in media production in Austria as well as shedding light on which actions, efforts and programs were most successful in challenging inequalities and overcoming barriers in the case of the City of Vienna and furthermore formulating our own action proposals based on these experiences on challenging inequalities in the Austrian media organisations.

In order to get the results 25 articles published on orf.at and kurier.at as well as 25 tweets published on the Kurier and derStandard Twitter feed were monitored.

The findings show that less than half of the monitored online news articles were not gendered. As far as the tweets go, less than 10 % of those that were monitored used gender sensitive language.

All in all, it can be said that when comparing the GMMP results from 2015 to the Pilot Study results of 2020 a development in the right direction is visible, though there is definitely a considerable additional scope for further expansion. Furthermore, judging by the Twitter results it becomes clear that gender sensitive language has no importance to Kurier and derStandard Twitter journalists and therefore leaves a lot of room for improvement.

“Both men and women should feel free to be sensitive. Both men and women should feel free to be strong…it is time that we all perceive gender on a spectrum not as two opposing sets of ideas.” – Emma Watson

The whole concept of gender and every related topic, sadly still proves itself everyday to be a very big problem and challenge that has to be overcome in our society. From the nearly endless list of gender related topics, which are still problematic themes in our society, our seminar focused on gender mainstreaming. Mentioning the nearly endless list of problems, it is clear why it’s time to finally take a step forward and take action against these problems.

Due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, we only had limited options within our FOPRAX Seminar this semester, but we sure did the best of the situation in regard to overcoming gender mainstreaming obstacles. We proudly present you our results of our work from this semester on the following pages.

To give an overview we are going to start with the comparison and analysis from the Global Monitoring Project 2020, of which we had the opportunity to be a part of. To begin with it is important to mention that the compared results from 2015 and 2020 only cover internet sources and Twitter feeds, so the numbers are only valid for online media landscape.

While comparing the results from the Global Monitoring Project 2015 and 2020, a significant rise in certain areas can be recognized. The percentage of female reporters in 2015 counted 15% while 5 years later in 2020 the percentage in internet news has gone up to 33%, which is more than twice as high and the Twitter news showed a percentage of 50%. A slight increase in female news subject is also recognizable as the results from 2015 presented 18% and and the results from 2020 are showing 19% in internet news and 21% in Twitter news.

A significant rise is also visible in the percentage of female experts and spokespersons in the news. In 2015 there were only 16% of female spokespersons while in 2020 there are 31% in internet news. The percentage of female experts also increased from 13% in 2015 to 19% in internet news five years later, in 2020.

All in all the results show a development in the right direction but there is definitely a considerable additional scope for further expansion.

In order to approach all citizens of Vienna with respect and fairness, the City of Vienna created a manual for gender sensitive language through the gender mainstreaming approach. The manual shows different ways of gendering. Based on the information shown in the manual, the research group analyzed 50 news articles and tweets which were part of the 2020 GMMP Pilot Study. 25 articles published on orf.at and kurier.at were monitored and shockingly, 44% of the articles were not gendered. Only 20% were correctly gendered and 36% written in a neutral form. Here needs to be mentioned that Kurier.at only gendered 8% of the articles, whereas orf.at gendered 31%. The orf.at results come as a surprise due to the fact that the ORF has its own task force and should therefore be way more consistent with the use of gender sensitive language. For future research, it would be interesting to find out why the journalists of orf.at choose to not gender their articles, even though the ORF task force exists.

The other 25 monitored news were tweets, published on the Kurier and derStandard Twitter feed. In contrast to news articles, 68% of the tweets used gender neutral language. This could be explained with Twitter character restrictions. Looking at the monitored tweets, it is clear that the mentioned news outlets only publish short headlines and links which lead to the website and therefore the full article. In addition, it needs to be mentioned that only 3 out of 25 tweets were gendered. This shows that gender sensitive language has no importance to Kurier and derStandard Twitter journalists and leaves a lot of room for improvement.

Another issue worth mentioning is the inequality when it comes to visibility of women in the media. The 2020 GMMP Pilot Study showed that only 22% of the mentioned subjects in Internet news were women and 17% in Twitter news. Those numbers increased significantly compared to the 2015 monitoring results (16%) but still, 22% is nowhere near 50%. The Austrian media houses have a lot of work ahead of them if they want to reach equality.

The most effective way for gender mainstreaming is its integration in our everyday lives. The lesson we can learn from the city of Vienna is that there are so many more hidden obstacles than we think. The act of approaching things differently, especially considering the female perspective, has to become the standard and not something that has special mention. Starting with the youngest members of society, Vienna tries to bring gender mainstreaming into each part of the public life, hoping that this way it will manifest in everyone’s lives and help prevent anti feminist backlash by normalising it.

A measure that is a great step in the right direction in regard to gender equality is „Gesprächsleitfaden der Stadt Wien“. The guideline should ensure that men and women are equally addressed. To reach each and every one, the City of Vienna has to ensure that women feel as addressed as men when it comes to “neutral” language. Besides, it is also very effective to show more women in pictures to evoke the feeling of equality.

Text and media analysis play a significant role in understanding gender mainstreaming. It helps us understand the current situation and track progress. But every analysis contributes to rising awareness and the discourse about the problems that we have in our society. But not only those, pictures are also important tools for gender mainstreaming.

Regarding to the pictures in a content analysis of press releases, done by our fellow students in march of 2020 in “Was uns Bilder über Genderneutralität sagen können”,  which shows examples of the best and worst practice examples on gender roles, the importance of the ratio between men and women, even the wardrobe style and the positioning of the women in pictures plays a significant role in equality. Men and women should be equally positioned in the center of the pictures as well on the sides, and depending on experts and professions, both sexes should be represented equally.  Also naming all people of both sexes that are present in the pictures when describing them as well as the formality of the presentation and avoiding typical gender roles. So it shows how important it is, to take every detail into account in every decision and seize every opportunity for gender equality.

Given that these are all lengthy processes aimed at staying in society, it is important to start from the core of the problem. As already stated, there are many hidden obstacles and for many there is no easy solution for having both language simplicity for easier reading and understanding and gender equality in the language. For everything that cannot be adjusted, new solutions should be sought.

The campaign “#was geht?.wenn wir veraltete Rollenbilder aufbrechen?” exposes common stereotypes of both men and women by showing typical situations through sujets. The goal is that women and men should have the opportunity to develop and shape their lives according to their needs and abilities, regardless of role attributions and stereotypes. However, social notions of what women or men should be like continue to shape everyday life.

The City of Vienna also has produced a manual on gender mainstreaming: „Gender Mainstreaming – made easy. Practical tips for more equality in the municipal administration“. They want to enable the concrete support of the employees of the City of Vienna with a manual. It is supposed to make it easier to apply gender mainstreaming in everyday work by providing a digital reference book with practical tips and checklists. The aim is to ensure that the living and working conditions of the sexes are equal.

Another mentionable measure taken by the City of Vienna lies in paying attention to a gender-neutral design, planning and use of public spaces. Suggestions for improvement on the part of the visitors are dealt with and, if possible, implemented structurally. The few outdated parks, where there is still a need for gender-neutral design, are gradually being adapted to current standards. The magistrates receive feedback and suggestions for improvement via the „Sag’s Wien App“ and from youth care in the respective districts. A children’s and youth parliament is held once a year in every district of Vienna, where children and young people can give feedback on individual parks or general park design.

In the following we will discuss suggestions for the media that are inspired by the Stadt Wien. Because austrian media organizations can profit in many ways from the experiences of the Stadt Wien on challenging inequalities. Beginning with general guidelines written by professionals for Austrian media.
In combination with that a concept like the ethics council can be invented. Austrian media can join the Equality team. This council can reprimand the media. After that they have to publish this reprimand. This way women and men can do research about the measures the media organization takes in order to overcome gender inequalities. In this way workplace choice can be improved and, hopefully the other media organizations feel the need to improve as well. The guidelines should not only offer solutions for multiple inequalities but also challenge media organisations to future improvement.

Furthermore, all media must use gender neutral language in writing and speaking. Of course many inequalities can be found in the working space, but also in the work the media does itself. As we noticed during the Global Media Monitoring Project, gender neutral language is rarely used in media. This mutes women which is dangerous because language creates reality and consciousness. The fact that gender neutral language sounds unusual for many, shows how much work still needs to be done to make women heard and seen. Obviously, a specific story about a man or a woman are not part of this discussion. The most important moments are, when men and women are equally meant but they are only referred to as for example “Ärzte” not “Ärztinnen” or “Ärzte und Ärztinnen”. There are different options on how to use gender neutral language, but it is important that the differences can also be heard. According to that the use of the asterisk* to gender is not sufficient.
It is important to establish gender neutral language, which is why teachers need to teach students to use the correct forms to include all genders so that all people adapt to it. The argument that the gender-neutral form is too long is irrelevant here. There should always be enough time for equality.

Or next proposal is to create offices and in general working spaces where women feel safe. That can be small things like sufficiently lightened parking lots near the entrance or toilets with bins for female hygiene products.

One of the most important lessons from the Stadt Wien was that gender inequalities are everywhere. Austrian media can learn a lot from this. To make women feel equal and heard in the working space is important to create an environment where everyone feels good and does their best work possible. Obstacles invisible to men but very present for women hide everywhere. We suggest a female task force for every media organisation that is sensible to gender inequalities. It begins with flexible working hours for working parents. Another problem women face are the discomforts coming with their menstruation. A lot of women have to deal with a tremendous amount of pain during multiple days a month. The option to work in home office not having to use up vacation days would be a big step for women. In addition to that bins for female hygiene products are inevitable. Sufficiently lightened parking lots near the entrance create a working environment where women feel more safe.

Another problem women face in their working spaces are that they are often not heard due to different problems. Moderated meetings are a way to make not only necessarily women but generally shy workers more heard. 

Our next suggestion is another necessity. The media needs more women as “star moderators/journalists”. It is an observation we can make a lot. There are mostly female hairdressers but most star hairstylists are men. The media works in similar ways and we have to abandon this practice by making female star moderators the standard. Of course this does not mean that there are no male moderators. This should and is not part of the discussion.

It goes hand in hand that women need to have a say in the coverage of media.

The GMMP made clear that the media are lacking female star journalists. As mentioned above, more men work in the journalism industry, therefore less women cover important topics in the media. 

The next problem we want to address are gender specific roles that are often used in media. People need to adapt a sensitivity for specific roles and characteristics, mostly used in combination with their profession. Even big media houses, like the ORF, need to be more concerned about the manual from the city of Vienna. The ZIB had a news report on systemically relevant jobs, where they used graphics to represent certain jobs, for example a cleaning person was represented by a woman with a headscarf[i].

Lastly it is important to overcome gender distinctions in general. For example, in kindergarten the students’ separation by gender was abandoned and thus bathrooms were redesigned in that gender-neutral toilets were implemented. In the University of Vienna only the toilets at the Anglistik Institute installed gender neutral toilets.


[i] https://www.diepresse.com/5821321/zeit-im-bild-entschuldigt-sich-fur-grafik (zuletzt aufgerufen am 30.06.2020)

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