Media Managers Charged To Ensure Gender Parity In The Newsroom

By Wole Soyinka Centre for Investigative Journalism

To redress the imbalance in the ratio of women to men in media organisations in the country, media owners and managers have been urged to ensure gender parity in their newsrooms. The call was made on Friday during a tweet chat organised by the Wole Soyinka Centre for Investigative Journalism to commemorate the International Women's Day with the theme ‘Gender Parity in the Newsroom’.

In the conversation led by Former Director of Editorials, NEXT Newspaper, Amma Ogan and the General Manager, Radio One FM, Funke-Treasure Durodola, it was noted that there is an urgent need to ensure that more women occupy top editorial positions and cover major beats in the news media.

While the achievements of some women in the media were acknowledged, discussants said more women should be given equal opportunities like their male counterparts to maximise their potentials. Media managers were also urged to create an inclusive, flexible culture in the newsroom as well as work towards gender balance for leadership positions. "#GenderParity in the #Newsroom is critical if the #Media is to lead the change it advocates," the Wole Soyinka Centre tweeted with its handle @WSoyinkaCentre.

According to Durodola, the mind-set of assigning female journalists to soft beats instead of the harder news needs to change to achieve gender parity. "How many women are in political desks in newsrooms? Or defence...” she lamented. She however urged women who are given the opportunity to lead to consciously work on being different, mentor others and break new grounds.

In her contribution, Ogan noted that media organisations should incorporate gender parity from "The first step, newsroom to boardroom." According to her, "You need an assigning editor who is aware of and understands why gender parity matters. Gender parity awareness promotes itself. Assigning editors must make the right choices.”

Other contributors noted that women have demonstrated that they can be trusted with more responsibilities in the newsroom based on the performance of those who have been in leadership positions over time. A call was also made for strong advocacy to protect women’s parity considering instances where some female journalists have been forced to resign or were sacked under difficult bosses.

Some discussants raised questions on how women struggle to be recognised in the newsroom while others stated that women have more domestic responsibilities than men, which limit their growth or participation in the newsroom. The media was also urged to celebrate the voice of women and their achievement in the newsroom and male journalists were charged to encourage their female counterparts.

The hashtags for the chat #ReportWomen #Pledgeforparity and #IWD2016 trended as number one in Lagos as the discussions gained momentum. The chat started at about 11:00am with a brief introduction of the WSCIJ project, Report Women which focuses on girls and women issues in Nigeria. The WSCIJ under the initiative has trained eighty journalists and commissioned thirty-one stories. It has also published a documentary titled, Report Women: The untold stories of girls and women, which is available on YouTube.

The organisation used the opportunity of the chat to celebrate top female journalists, past and present, including Anike Agbaje- Williams, the first female broadcaster at Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria, (FRCN), late Remi Oyo former Managing Director of News Agency of Nigeria and President Nigeria Guild of Editors, Bimbo Oloyede who has a four-decade experience in broadcasting, Late Hajiya Bilikisu Yusuf, Columnist with Daily Trust and Funke Egbemode, Managing Director and Editor-in-Chief of New Telegraph, among others.

Earlier in the week, the WSCIJ in collaboration with the Centre for Black and African Arts and Culture, CBAAC, held a walkathon on Broad Street, Lagos, on Tuesday 8 March to encourage gender parity at all levels of society. Both organisations will also host a Symposium on Tuesday 15 March 2016 at Archbishop Soremekun Hall, Broad Street, Lagos, by 10am with Mrs Onari Duke, Chairman Board of Directors, Child Survival and Development Organisation of Nigeria as the lead speaker.

Motunrayo Alaka
Centre Coordinator