Lunch & Learn: Gender and Media Development

img_2420-1On October 6, 2016, the Desmond Tutu Center for Peace, Reconciliation, and Global Justice Tutu Fellow Dr. Margaretha Geertsema-Sligh, Associate Professor of Journalism in the College of Communications at Butler University, presented her research at the bi-monthly Lunch and Learn presentation. Her presentation “Gender and Media Development: A Look at Internews” opened the forum for the rarely-discussed topic of unequal gender representation in news media. Dr. Geertsema-Sligh’s research involved interviewing members of Internews, an international non-governmental media development organization regarding its programming for women and girls. In October 2015, Internews launched a unique program aimed at creating gender balance between men and women in the global news media.

Dr. Geertsema-Sligh’s research entailed traveling to Washington D.C. to visit the head office of Internews in February 2012. While there, she conducted 11 interviews with employees at the office. She also interviewed 10 employees who worked as international correspondents and one partner through Skype, whose locations included Afghanistan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kyrgyzstan, Liberia, South Africa, South Sudan, and Ukraine. The interviews lasted on average 46 minutes, and included 4 males and 17 females.

Dr. Geertsema-Sligh discussed with interviewees the struggles women encounter while trying to acquire equality in the media.  Traditional cultures and religion, stereotypes of women, online and physical safety concerns, and family responsibilities were just a few of the difficulties for women discussed by Dr. Geertsema-Sligh and her interviewees. In her presentation, Dr. Geertsema-Sligh elaborated on some of these obstacles. Including statistics such as the fact that 24% of news subjects are women and only 37% of stories include women.

The research presentation also included quotes from interviewees’ conversations with Dr. Geertsema-Sligh. A participant from Afghanistan spoke about how women risk relationships by engaging in media professions: “There are many women who beyond their father, like, their uncles don’t know they work for media outlets, because that’s not considered culturally acceptable for women. So women take a risk working for the media”. Several more quotes from conversations with Internews employees helped the audience to understand how the interviewees actually felt in relation to the topic. Including many women from developing nations, the interviews gave a real look into the hardships females face by being a part of the media industry.

At the conclusion of the presentation, a question and answer session brought to light many other interesting observations and comments as well. Attendees discussed topics including gender equality as a western concept, the present role of online news versus television reporting, media development in recent decades, and the dominance of male power in culture. Dr. Geertsema-Sligh helped facilitate the conversation and answered questions to further develop the audience’s understanding of the constant changes involved in gender media development across the world.

By: Autumn Tyler

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