Challenges women are facing in Africa media industry

Posted on November 15, 2016 02:39 am

Men chauvinists are plenty in different spheres of African societies.Media industry isn’t an exception.As of December 2015, statistics shows that women now outnumber men in the African media that includes online media platforms, electronic and print media.Sadly, they are typically younger, earn less and have less powerful positions than male colleagues.A new survey covering ten countries of Egypt, Tunisia, Nigeria, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Cameroon, Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia and South Africa shows women now make up 51.3% of African journalists and media executives, a significant increase from 10 years ago, when they represented merely one-third.Conducted between June 2015 and April this year, the study representative survey of 2000 journalists around Africa found that just 12 % of women respondents could be classified as senior managers, including editors-in-chief and managing editors.This compares with one in five 26 men being in a similar position. The split among senior managers surveyed was 71.2% men and 28.9% women. Amongst the rank and file this was reversed to 65.2% were women.The much-discussed glass ceiling still seems to be a considerable hurdle for women to overcome in terms of reaching those senior positions in the news media. Yet, even when they reach this level, they are still typically paid much less than the men, an indication that the media is no different to the general workforce.

The study is the first of its kind in more than six years to involve such a large number of journalists. Other issues covered include people’s voting intentions and cultural backgrounds.The survey was conducted by telephone with journalists from around the continent working at radio, newspapers, magazines and television stations, online news sites and news agencies, as a random sample of the 50000 to 100,000 journalists in Africa today.At each of the editorial levels, rank and file, junior managers and senior managers, women have significantly lower salaries than men. Only one third of them earn more than USD$12,000 a year, compared with around half of male journalists.This is even more pronounced at the high end of the scale. A mere 0.8% of female journalists reported an income of more than USD $100,000 a year. In contrast, 13.6% of men fell into this category.Not surprisingly, women are generally less satisfied with their level of pay than men at 41.5% of them are somewhat or very dissatisfied with their pay, compared with 17.9% of men.While one may argue that the lower income for women is merely the effect of fewer holding senior editorial ranks, the data actually shows that even after controlling for editorial rank, gender is still a significant influence in relation to salary.

This means that even at similar levels of responsibility, women continue to be paid less than men.Overall, women in the Africa media sector are significantly younger and less experienced than their male counterparts. While the average journalist is 33 years old, men average almost 44 years of age, compared with women at only just over 28 years. Almost two thirds of women are aged under 35 years, while only 26.9 % of men are.This is an indication that the strong popularity of journalism degrees among women, women make up around 52% of Africa’s journalism students, is leading the sea change in the industry.It is not yet clear whether this is a generational change that will lead to a stronger representation of women in the senior editorial ranks as well, or whether there will be a drop off from women from a certain age.Certainly, women are also less experienced, with an average time in the industry of only just under 8 years, compared to the average male journalist who has been a journalist for 20 years. This fact does play a role in their salaries, as experience is strongly correlated with salaries. However, while experience is a significant influence in salary levels, gender also remains significant when combining the two factors.That brings the question why, if men and women have the same job responsibility, they are paid differently based on their experience.So even though Africa women have achieved parity in terms of absolute numbers in the industry, they are still consistently discriminated against in terms of pay as well as their opportunities to move through the ranks towards senior editorial positions. Much remains to be done if true gender equality is to be achieved in journalism.

Contador Harrison