“Hide and Seek” with Women in the Media

Bild © Rene Asmussen

“Hide and Seek” with Women in the Media


Katrin Bashutska, Anja Croce, Marlies Ehrenpaar, Melanie Moosmann, Lena Schinhärl, Justus von Bomhard


The goal of this action research project was to explore the questions of the areas of media regulation in which gender could get mainstreamed and what methods and processes would best fit mainstreaming gender in media regulation. In this report we focus on an Austrian public broadcaster – the ORF. After researching about gender mainstreaming in the ORF we get to know the Women Taskforce. It is a group of women responsible for ensuring gender equality. Thanks to their success they were acknowledged as “Best Practice Modell der Eigeninitiative“ in Europe. Furthermore, we got to code the data for the Global Media Monitoring Project 2020 and reflect on the results. Thanks to this opportunity we established that even though there are improvements in the female presence in the news – both as subjects and as journalists – there is still a long way to go with regard to equal representation. Especially the results concerning the ORF are of great value to this project because they show a kind of dissonance. Despite all the achievements of the Women Taskforce and the nature of the ORF we saw that women weren’t present in any of the coded articles in the role of journalists and in general a lot of articles lacked the authorship. Based on these results and research we address the main obstacles that women in the ORF encounter in their advancement in the media and the implemented programs which were successful in the past. We also introduce an action proposals based on the ORF experiences in challenging inequalities in the Austrian media organizations.


Kirchhoff, Susanne, Dimitri, Prandner (2016). Austria. Working Conditions, Representation and Measures Towards Gender Equality. In: Gender Equality and the Media : A Challenge for Europe, Routledge. retrieved from: https://moodle.univie.ac.at/mod/resource/view.php?id=4030737


In Austria, “research on the representation of women in print media and broadcasting is mostly based on individual case studies as there is no consistent media monitoring, either by a public institution, an independent trust or the media industry itself” (2016), state Kirchhoff and Prandner in their article about women in the austrian media. This also implies, that working conditions for women are not as well researched as they could be and makes it more than necessary, to analyze them in the five yearly GMMP News Report.

“The Global Media Monitoring Project is the largest and longest longitudinal study on the gender in the world’s media”(http://whomakesthenews.org/gmmp ), as its website says and its mission is to draw attention to gender inequalities and change the representation of women in the media. As further GMMP researches showed, the the austrian media landscape is very conservative with for example a small percentage of 15% of female reporters in Internet stories. How this percentage has changed over the last years is important to analyze, since many factors could influence this percentage. For example, there was a right turn in politics europe wide, but also media houses as the ORF took actions towards gender mainstreaming in order to achieve more equality, owed to (online) activism.

The Österreichischer Rundfunk is Austria’s public service broadcast. Its headquarter is located in Vienna, but there are also nine state studios that provide Austrians with information and entertainment. It is also the biggest media provider in the country for television and radio (vgl. Österreichischer Rundfunk https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C3%96sterreichischer_Rundfunk ). In 2019, the average over 12 year old Austrian watched 196 minutes per day (vgl. ORF.at https://der.orf.at/medienforschung/fernsehen/fernsehnutzunginoesterreich/index.html ).Which is why analyzing its structures and (lacking) progressiveness is inevitable.

to find out what has changed in the Austrian media landscape and especially at the ORF, since it is such a big part of it, we are going to analyze and compare the data of the GMMP studies of the years 2015 and 2020 in the following chapter.

  1. Women Reporters of the news

The “GMMP Austria 2015” concerned with the presence of women in the news and brings attention to a significant gender gap. The “GMMP Austria 2015” concludes that on the monitoring day 2015 only about 21% of the news subjects, reporters as well as presenters in the traditional media observed were female, with particularly low representation of women in economy (14%), politics/government stories (18%), crime and violence (25%) and social/legal issues (20%) . The “Quantitative Studie zu Gender-Diversity unter österreichischen JournalistInnen” on the other hand deals with gender ratios of journalists in different types of Austrian media. The gender gap identified in the “Quantitative Studie zu Gender-Diversity unter österreichischen JournalistInnen” regarding the producers of news is not as big, with 53% of the journalists across all media being men. This is mainly because the public service media have a very balanced male to female ratio, while men are slightly overrepresented in private media. It is also noteworthy, that there is a significant dominance of men in leadership positions.

The results of the GMMP 2020 Pilot Study in Austria also shows a significant difference with regards to the women reporters in the news in comparison to the results from 2015. The number of female reporters on the Internet increased to 33% whereas in 2015 it was 15%.  

Source: http://whomakesthenews.org/gmmp-2020

The number of female reporters on Twitter in 2020 lies at 50%. Twitter news were not analyzed in 2015 so a comparison isn’t possible. However, it is worth mentioning that the number of analyzed tweets was relatively low (n=14).

With regards to the analysis of the ORF articles on the day of coding the results are disturbing. Among the thirteen coded articles not one was done by a woman. Four journalists were coded as male and the authors of the nine more articles were unknown. On the ORFs Twitter page, none of the five coded articles mentioned the name of the journalist. These results raise a lot of questions seeing as ORF implements a Women Task Force, whose mission is to make women visible and ensure gender equality in journalism. Women Task Force has managed to improve the gender equality situation in ORF by ensuring a 45% women quota on all the levels and starting a mentoring program for women and is also considered „Best Practice Modell der Eigeninitiative“ in Europe. Considering the question whether we noticed a correlation between topic and gender we came to the answer that most of us personally didn’t notice one.

This doesn’t mean, that there isn’t one. Most of us were rather shocked about the fact that a lot of the time the journalist wasn’t named, so we didn’t notice anything extraordinary about gender and topic. Another reason for this conclusion might be the stories that we coded. We only coded „important“ news and no „gossip“, „Lifestyle advice“, sports or


The issue of the lack of journalistic credit in online news is also present in other coded Austrian newspapers like Krone.at and Kurier.at. Since there were so many articles without a journalists name given, a lot of us felt as if they weren’t important to the newspapers. Another explanation for this could be that the news stories come from news agencies, which means they are considered to be the property of the agency and not one particular journalist.

Other than that these articles could come from news agencies there are two ways to interpret this situation.

One is, that the work of the journalists isn’t being valued. As some of us want to be

journalists ourselves, this came as a shocking revelation. The second one being, that the

readers shouldn’t care about the reporters but the content of the article. This is a more

optimist view on this issue. Having no reporter given, the gender aspect disappears and it

doesn’t matter anymore if a woman writes about typically „male“ topics or a man writes

about typically „female“ topics – some stereotypes might disappear. After consulting with the Austrian Presserat we came to the conclusion, that sometimes it can even be benefiting to not name the author. Sometimes not naming the journalist can prevent backlash or negative consequences. The Presserat doesn’t have any particular regulations about naming the author. Every newspaper can choose for themselves whether they want to name their writers or not. In any case, the lack of bylines means the lack of transparency and journalistic recognition and this issue should be brought to people’s attention. These results bring to light questions where further research is needed.

  • Major challenges to gender equality

The ORF The Women Taskforce was founded more than ten years ago and since then, the members had to and still need to overcome major challenges to gender equality. Some women, who are part of the task force, spoke in interviews (https://letstalkequal.blog/category/musterfalle/orf-task-force-musterfalle/) about the difficulties that female employees face, when working in media. We find that there are four major challenges in particular, that women have to overcome. The first being the “eye rolling attitude” from both women, who don’t want to admit the position they are in at work, and men, who act as if women are just piling on to problems with their feminism. Another problem is that the ORF employs women for positions that they are overqualified for. Eva Strommer (https://letstalkequal.blog/2019/08/23/interview-mit-eva-strommer-kaufmannische-leiterin-im-orf-landesstudio-burgenland/), commercial manager of ORF Burgenland and member of the ORF Women Taskforce, mentions that some female secretaries even have a PhD. Additionally female employees frequently face the so called “glass ceiling”. This “glass ceiling” describes the fact that in many cases women, because of their gender, have limited chances to reach an executive position. Dodo Roscic(https://letstalkequal.blog/2019/07/22/starke-frauen-im-orf-ein-gesprach-mit-dodo-roscic/) had to experience this herself and she realized, that a special world exists just for men at work, one to which women don’t have free access and many women simply don’t know about it. As Roscic put it, it takes a certain amount of personal process to come to the awareness, that women have to deal with challenges in their career, which men never even have to think about. Last, but definitely a huge obstacle to women’s advancement in the media, is the economic situation. According to Angelika Doucha-Fasching (https://letstalkequal.blog/2019/07/31/angelika-doucha-fasching-uber-die-kraft-von-frauen-netzwerken/) a lot of times media companies don’t hire a replacement, when a female employee takes family leave, or/and those financial matters make it sometimes very difficult for women to come back after family leave. Although all these challenges seem very hard to overcome, there are still ways to make gender equality happen.

  • Overcoming the obstacles (gender mainstreaming)

Generally a huge problem at the ORF was, as in many media production houses, the inequality between men and women, that showed up in form of women not being represented, being paid or being heard at the same level, as men were. Since the ORF is, amongst other things, financed by broadcasting fees, it was very important to lead by example and intensify actions towards gender mainstreaming. To give a short overview, the most successful actions, efforts and programs to overcome barriers are going to be described in the following sentences, classified by the three pillars of gender mainstreaming.

One of the biggest organisational successes at the ORF was the women’s quote of 45%, invented by  the politicians Gabriele Heinisch-Hoschek and Christine Marek. Despite it is not always possible to maintain the quote,especially in “glass-ceiling-positions”, it was a big success for women in the austrian media business. Gender budgeting was also a very necessary step to fight unequal payment, such as the curriculum for the promotion of women. But one of the most important steps was the founding of the ORF Task Force 15 years ago. Its focus is shifted on connecting women, but also acting as a support system in terms of difficulties caused by gender inequalities.

Within this task force they founded a very successful mentoring program to help women with  difficulties in their jobs, mostly caused by gender differencies.This action is built on the pillar of advocacy. Also in this category falls making the gender pay gap visible. In order to achieve this, the ORF calculates its number every half a year newly and publishes it..

To make sure that gender sensitive content is not just provided, but also wanted, two prizes were founded, to award very insensitive or sexist content productions (Lila Limette) or very including media productions (positive prize) within the ORF.

In conclusion: Mostly organisational solutions were provided, but all of these steps show, why the ORF is seen as a best practice model of initiative Europe-wide. But even though it is a very good example for more inclusion, the ORF still has got a lot of work to do, for example not mentioning the names of journalists in their media productions, which also includes women. Also, recent statistics by EIGE show, that the “women are in the minority within decision-making roles at the public broadcaster ÖRF (sic!)”(as cited in FitzSimons et al, 2018: p. 40). Only 40% of women, which is 4.2 % over the european average, have a position as CEOs, Executives and Non-Executive Directors. Same goes for Presidents and Members of a Board or a Council, only that is is just 2,0 % over the european average. Generally speaking, females in Austria do still do have a problem with the so called “glass ceiling” (vgl. Fitzsimons et al., 2018: p. 39-44).


FitzSimons, Ana; Girstmair, Sylvia; Priest, Sarah; McCracken, Katie; Murphy, Brenda (2018). Gender Equality in the media sector. Study for the femm committee. European Union. retrieved from:

  • Action Proposal

Although the results of the GMMP 2020 pilot study show an increased number of visibility of women in the media, there is still a lot of work to do to reach equality of both genders. The most important thing to start with, is 1) Founding a Task Force to empower and support women. 2) Make a survey to ask women about their needs. According to the GMMP 2020 women make only 31% of all spokepersons and 19% of all subjects in the media, that means women need to be empowered to speak out and also need to be heard and asked about their opinions. Start with those areas that were mentioned by the women and therefore need to be changed and improved. A good example is “Cherchez la femme” an initiative from Belgium that supports the possibility to interview women rather than men as experts (https://resbank.agemi-eu.org/scheda.php/?id=663). Enshrine Women’s equality plan in law, for example establish a proportions of females in leading and decision making positions, because women are still underrepresented in those areas. 4) Pay men and women equally, this is especially important to work against the gender pay gap but also important to empower women. In Sweden the organization “SVT”, Sveriges television, works against the gender pay gap with the rule that average salaries for women and men in the organization as a whole and in each professional category should not differ. Monitoring and follow-up is conducted in-house on an annual basis (https://resbank.agemi-eu.org/scheda.php/?id=71). 5) Found a ‚Mentoring Program’ to support women, for example in matters of career rise. For example, in the GMMP 2020 women make only 19% of all experts in the news. In the United States, they have a nonprofit organization called “TVbyGIRLS “, that works with girls to build leadership, compassionate and collaborative working skills, critical thinking and engagement in social justice and the issues of their communities. TVbyGIRLS inspires girls to develop their leadership potential, cross-cultural understanding, collaborative skills and ability to create compassionate change in the world through expression in media arts (http://tvbygirls.tv/watch/made-by-tvbygirls/). 6) Educate and encourage young women in the beginning of their career. Another good practice example is the “Game Girl Workshop” a project that boosts self-confidence and technical knowledge of girls in the games, entertainment and technology industries (http://gamegirlworkshop.org/what-is-game-girl-workshop/#why-choose-ggw).

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