New media report highlights gender inequalities in Ghanaian newsrooms

Women occupy only 1% of executive head positions in Ghanaian media positions with most females in either middle-management positions or senior journalist roles according to researchers at the launch of the first State of Women in Ghanaian Media report.

Data provides empirical evidence that can shift perceptions and policies and, in the media, it can heighten the need for a gender-balanced newsroom.

“[Data] gives you the exact reality of what it is that we are talking about when you have the numbers in front of you it's hard to step away from it and act as if it is not real,” said Prof Akosua Darkwa, head of the University of Ghana’s sociology department.

Darkwa spoke as the keynote speaker at the launch of the State of Women in the Ghanaian Media report held on August 26. The report is the work of the Alliance of Women in Africa (AMWA) and University of Ghana’s school of information and communication studies (SICS). The report seeks to provide evidence to push for gender equality and advocacy in Ghanaian newsrooms.

“Like many sectors, there is a general data poverty, even more so in disaggregated forms that highlight nuances,” said AWMA convenor Shamima Muslim.

318 women from over 70 media organisations in the West African country participated in the study.

While the participants highlighted varied education levels, work roles and positions, decision-making women were underrepresented.

Dr. Abena Animwaa Yeboah-Banin, a SICS senior lecturer said the majority of the women captured in the report are concentrated in middle-management positions or senior journalist roles.

“We find that if you look at people at the executive head positions [...] of the 318 we only have 1% in that role. It gives a nice picture of where women exist in the media industry. Certainly not at the top,” she said.

“We need to constantly keep our eyes on the ball and from time to time check to see whether or not collectively women in the media are making progress. Why? because it's easy to assume progress just by focusing on a few visible and successful women in the media,” said SICS dean Prof. Audrey Gadzekpo.

Women often have to tackle their professional roles while fulfilling the role of being primary caregivers. Ghana’s National Media Commission executive secretary George Sarpong said there has to be an awareness of the complexities of women’s lives.

“Perhaps the other thing that we need to keep our eyes on is that the media is the biggest legitimator for public discourse. So when you are absent from the media, the likelihood that the visibility on all the things that matter to you being dim is very high,” Sarpong said.

United States ambassador to Ghana Her Excellency S. Sullivan said the representation of women in the media was important because the media mirror what happens in society and help shape it.

“The issues of gender-balance and bias in the newsroom and in reporting are not unique to Ghana, we continue to grapple with the same issues in the United States [...] We believe women should be at the forefront. Both at the keyboard and in the story itself,” Sullivan said.

Women make up of most of the world’s population, yet on average, they are only seen, heard and read in the media only 25% of the time, according to a WAN-IFRA Women in News gender balance guidebook.

“Our histories, our cultures, economies and politics have left us with an unbalanced world and an unbalanced newsroom. Media women know what we face on a daily basis as we navigate entrenched systems to assert our rights and agency.

“We know it we feel it and we talk about it now we have a report aggregating our lived experiences and aspirations because we too matter,” Muslim said.

While there were few women in managerial positions in Ghanaian media, over 60% of the report respondents perceived promotions to be fair. However, for every one in three respondents, one was either unsure or felt promotions were unfair.

Gadzekpo said that regardless of the progress or stagnation the report revealed, “we must remain optimistic”.

“Bearing in mind that it takes decades upon decades to achieve the fruits of advocacy and therefore collectively with our male allies we must continue to press for equality and improve conditions not only for women in the media but indeed for women in other fields,” Gadzekpo said.

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