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Role Of Women In Media High Visibility Media Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Media
Wordcount: 5474 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Pakistan is another minefield of challenges for journalists, especially female journalists. The problem prevails mostly in electronic media scenario as women are making more appearances on screen with the boom of private TV channels. They are considered less prominent. Female journalists working in developed countries are also facing such problems but Pakistani female journalists are in the initial stages towards progress

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In Pakistan, with the advent of increasing number of private TV channels, female journalists quite often appear on our television screens.  Anchor women, foreign correspondents, and special correspondents are omnipresent in the main broadcast news shows and in current affairs programs. They are considered beautiful and successful women, as well as trend-setters with respect to clothes, make-up and hairstyles.  Print journalism, where the physical image is replaced by the reporter’s name, this phenomenon is much less prominent than electronic media.

In spite of the large entrance of female personnel into the professional work of information, women on top of editorial staff are still a scanty minority: this is, however, no different to Western countries. Thanks to television, female journalists have acquired great visibility.  

Recently The International Women’s Media Foundation announced that Rabia Mehmood, a journalist from the Lahore bureau of Express 24/7 Television has acquired an extra ordinary achievement by recieving 2010-11 Elizabeth Neuffer Fellowship. Rabia Mehmood is the sixth one who has received this annual fellowship, which gives opportunity to woman journalist working in print, broadcast or online media to focus exclusively on the issues of human rights and social justice. Throughout her career, Rabiya Mehmood has reported on topics such as women’s rights, freedom of speech and political unrest. She has covered many important and crucial issues such as the survivors and victims of terrorist attacks, suicide bombings and hostage sieges carried out by militants in Lahore. She has also reported on internally displaced people (IDPs) who left Northwest Pakistan as a result of insurgency by terrorists and military.

But this is not the case of every female journalist. Most of them are assigned to cover social, cultural, soft stories, day’s events, or light events. But male journalists get the preference to get a significant assignment, stories which might be lead stories. With the evolution of time and in order to follow the west, Pakistani media is giving important posts to female journalists but infact the power still lies in the hands of dominant males. Editorial Boards mostly consist of male members.

Gender discrimination in journalism is very distinct and they are not given the same benefits as to their male colleagues.  

Gender discrimination against women is greatly responsible for reducing the available talent in any country, which in turn has many negative consequences including economic loss. There are many discriminatory practices which are considered either religious or cultural in nature with deep historical roots and thus they eliminate women out of the country’s progress. These practices forbid women to show their abilities and talents.

Theoretical Framework

Gender Inequality & Theories of Patriarchy

Gender inequalities in the domestic and occupational settings are best understood with reference to the concept of patriarchy.

Western female thought through the centuries has identified the relationship between patriarchy and gender as crucial to the women’s subordinate position. For two hundred years, patriarchy prohibited women from having any identity and they were living the life of slavery. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, their efforts come to fruition and they succeeded in securing some legal and political rights for women in the UK. By the middle of the 20th century, the emphasis had shifted from rights and identity to socio-economic equality and thus the women’s movement that started during the 1960s began to argue that women were oppressed by patriarchal structures.  Now in the 21st century it is usually claimed that women are enjoying equal status as those of men, yet there are contradictions and women still face the male dominance. (Patriarchy).

Gender Role Theories:

Gender roles are “socially and culturally defined prescriptions and beliefs about the behavior and emotions of men and women” (Anselmi and Law 1998, p. 195). Many theorists believe that perceived gender roles form the bases for the development of gender identity. Prominent psychological theories of gender role and gender identity development include evolutionary theory, object-relations theory, gender schema theory and social role theory.

Evolutionary theories of gender development are grounded in genetic bases for differences between men and women. Functionalists (e.g., Shields 1975) propose that “men and women have evolved differently to fulfill their different and complementary functions, which are necessary for survival.” Similarly, sociobiologists (e.g., Buss 1995) suggest that “behavioral differences between men and women stem from different sexual and reproductive strategies that have evolved to ensure that men and women are able to efficiently reproduce and effectively pass on their genes.”

In contrast, object-relations theorists focus on the effects of socialization on gender development. For example, Nancy Chodorow (1989) emphasizes the role of women as primary caregivers in the development of sex differences. Chodorow asserts that “the early bond between mother and child affects boys and girls differently. Whereas boys must separate from their mothers to form their identities as males, girls do not have to endure this separation to define their identities as females.” Chodorow (1989) explains that “the devalued role of women is a product of the painful process men undergoes to separate them from the female role.”

Gender schema theory (Bem 1981) focuses on the role of cognitive organization in addition to socialization. This theory proposes that children learn how their cultures and/or societies define the roles of men and women and then internalize this knowledge as a gender schema, or unchallenged core belief. Children’s perceptions of men and women are thus an interaction between their gender schemas and their experiences. Eventually, children will incorporate their own self-concepts into their gender schema and will assume the traits and behaviors that they deem suitable for their gender.

Alice Eagly (1987) offers yet another explanation of gender development that is based on socialization. Eagly’s social role theory suggests that “the sexual division of labor and societal expectations based on stereotypes produce gender roles”. Eagly (1987) distinguishes between the communal and agentic dimensions of gender-stereotyped characteristics. The communal role is characterized by attributes, such as nurturance and emotional expressiveness, commonly associated with domestic activities, and thus, with women. The agentic role is characterized by attributes such as assertiveness and independence, commonly associated with public activities, and thus, with men. Behavior is strongly influenced by gender roles when cultures endorse gender stereotypes and form firm expectations based on those stereotypes (Eagly 1987).

These socially constructed gender roles is considered to be hierarchical and characterized as a male-advantaged gender hierarchy. The activities men involved in were often those that provided them with more access to or control of resources and decision making power, rendering men not only superior dispositional attributes via correspondence bias (Gilbert, 1998), but also higher status and authority as society progressed. The particular pattern of the labor division within a certain society is a dynamic process and determined by its specific economical and cultural characteristics. For instance, in an industrial economy, the emphasis on physical strength in social activities becomes less compared with that in a less advanced economy. In a low birth rate society, women will be less confined to reproductive activities and thus more likely to be involved in a wide range of social activities. The beliefs that people hold about the sexes are derived from observations of the role performances of men and women and thus reflect the sexual division of labor and gender hierarchy of the society.(Wikipedia)

The consequences of gender roles and stereotypes are sex-typed social behavior because roles and stereotypes are both socially shared descriptive norms and prescriptive norms.

In summary, social role theory “treats these differing distributions of women and men into roles as the primary origin of sex-differentiated social behavior, their impact on behavior is mediated by psychological and social processes” including “developmental and socialization processes, as well as by processes involved in social interaction (e.g., expectancy confirmation) and self-regulation”

Social Construction of Gender Difference

This perspective proposes that gender difference is socially constructed. This perspective believes that gender is socially constructed. Social constructionism of gender moves away from socialization as the origin of gender differences; people do not merely internalize gender roles as they grow up but they respond to changing norms in society. Children learn to categorize themselves by gender very early on in life. A part of this is learning how to display and perform gendered identities as masculine or feminine. Boys learn to manipulate their physical and social environment through physical strength or other skills, while girls learn to present themselves as objects to be viewed. Children monitor their own and others’ gendered behavior. Gender-segregated children’s activities create the appearance that gender differences in behavior reflect an essential nature of male and female behavior.

Judith Bulter contends that “being female is not “natural” and that it appears natural only through repeated performances of gender; these performances in turn, reproduce and define the traditional categories of sex and/or gender.”

A social constructionist view looks beyond categories and examines the intersections of multiple identities, the blurring of the boundaries of essentialist categories. This is especially true with regards to categories of male and female those are typically viewed by others as binary and opposites of each other. By deconstructing categories of gender, the value placed on masculine traits and behaviors disappears. However, the elimination of categories makes it difficult to make any comparisons between the genders or to argue and fight against male domination.

Feminism, masculinism and religious views

Some feminists thinkd that the issue of gender differences is caused by patriarchy or discrimination, although difference feminism argues for an acceptance of gender differences. Conservative masculists see gender differences as inherent in human nature, while liberal masculists see gender differences as caused by matriarchy and discrimination.

Gender inequality is an acute and persistent problem, especially in developing countries. This paper argues that gender discrimination is an inefficient practice. “We model gender discrimination as the complete exclusion of females from the labor market or as the exclusion of females from managerial positions. The distortions in the allocation of talent between managerial and unskilled positions, and in human capital investment, are analyzed. It is found that both types of discrimination lower economic growth; and that the former also implies a reduction in per capita GDP, while the latter distorts the allocation of talent. Both types of discrimination imply lower female-to-male schooling ratios.” (Berta 2004)

History of the struggle of female journalists:

Men have always been the decision makers. Feminists are struggling against it since the 1960s. Feminists have argued that “it matters who makes it.” When it specifically comes to the field of mass media “makers” have always continued to be men.

Struggle of the Women working in the media have made some inroads. International Federation of Journalists was formed to unite all the journalists worldwide on one forum. In 2001, the Federation reported that 38 per cent of all working journalists are women around the world. Studies conducted by Canadian researchers Gertrude Robinson and Armande Saint-Jean were two another researchers from Canada who did research to find out percentage of women working in Print media and according to their results 28 per cent of newspaper editors are female. And according to San Diego State University communications professor Martha Lauzen, 24 per cent of American television producers, writers, and directors are women.

Denis Monière, political analyst and professor at Quebec’s University of Montreal expresses that “even if the female journalists have become much more visible in the last ten years, it doesn’t mean that female journalists have gain victory.” In 2002, the Canadian Newspaper Association reported that 43 per cent of Canadian newspaper employees are women. However, they account for only eight per cent of editors-in-chief and twelve per cent of publishers. Women employed in the sector tend to work in “pink-collar ghettos”; 70 percent of them are working in the advertising department and 80 percent as the accounting and finance staff or at administrative posts.

In addition to being un-represented in authoritative positions, women are also not considered eligible of covering the most important subjects like politics, economy and social trends. And when it comes to the evening news (hard news), women are almost invisible. The assigning of Sophie Thibault in 2002 as the ten o’clock news anchor for the national French-language channel TVA is a “first” for Canada. Most often, women are consigned to noon-hour shows, local newscasts, “fill-ins” and weekend spots.

However, men continue to occupy approximately 75 per cent of the positions of power in the mass media.

The 2001 study conducted by the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania is also very disappointing. The public policy Center reports that females only comprise 13 per cent of the top executive positions of American media, telecommunications and e-companies. And that 13 per cent is not even concentrated at the top positions. Women constitute only 9 per cent of the boards of directors for these companies, and they hold only 3 per cent of the most powerful positions.


Women in Islamic nations are now given importance after many years of ignorance. They are now increasingly being heard, seen and listened to. The credit of their success goes to some leading female voices that were determined to make a difference, despite many challenges ranging from motherhood to threats on their lives.

“Speaking Softly”  is a famous Saudi program, its renowned hostess says that she is among the first ones who brought change in  Arabic society and until recently, she did not see people like herself on television.

Muna Abusulayman is one of four anchorwomen of the show that deals with various important issues in a talk show format. Of the four, Abusulayman is the only one who covers her head and wears a hijab or headscarf. She is divorced and lives alone with her only child in Saudi Arabia.

Time is changing and there are many women in the Middle East who have taken up as anchors and presenters on Televison. And through their struggle now they have made up the majority of them. But according to Abusulayman, they are much less prominent behind the scenes, in decision making positions and in other media like print and radio.

Tasneem Ahmar, a renowned person, who runs a media and advocacy group in Pakistan as well as produce radio programs specifically focused on women’s issues, agrees with Abusulayman.

With more than 25 years experience as a journalist, Ahmar says that, in Pakistan most decision-making jobs, top executive positions, and “tough” and “valuable” assignments which can be a lead story are given to men.

“Women normally are assigned very soft, social, trendy and cultural issues,” she said. “in this profession , there are very few women who are participating in active journalism and doing hard political stories, economic stories or current affairs related programs.”

Tasneem Ahmar thinks positive changes for women in the Middle East and the Islamic world are on the horizon. She predicts that a new wave of young women in the Pakistani media will have an impact in five to ten years in her country.

“These young girls who have come in, they’re very ambitious and they’re very hard working and I don’t think anything is going to stop them from going to the top positions.”

While there is still a lot of work to be done, the women hope that their efforts and successes in the media will inspire not only women but men too. Or maybe there is truth to the old adage, “the best man for the job is a woman.”

May Chidiac  is another woman from the Middle East who cover tough stories brilliantly and speaks out on every issue. She is the host of a Lebanese TV program called “With Audacity.”

Chidiac is known all over the Arab world for her tenacious journalism. A victim of an assassination attempt by suspected Syrian agents, she lost a hand and a leg in a car bombing in September 2005. After numerous surgeries, she went straight back to work to serve her cause.

Reporter of an English Newspaper from Dhaka says that in most cases, chief reporters/assignment editors (almost everyone are male) do not assign them something special/important or significant reports. They are still assigned soft stories, day’s events, or light events. But male journalists get the preference to get a significant assignment, stories which might be lead stories.

But the interesting point is that, many female journalists in our country now protesting this kind of attitudes and they are getting serious kind of assignment after fighting with their bosses.

In Bangladesh, this is a very new phenomenon to appoint female journalists in electronic media, However, critics pointed that as female is more attractive then male in electronic media, so the media owners appoints the female journalists to attract audiences. About 15 percent female journalists are now working in country’s 11 state and privately run TV channels.

On the other hand, in print media, we are very few female reporters are which any working journalist can count within 10 minutes.

There are some other sectors of the media where female are more visible then reporting like hazardous and glamorous job for unknown reasons.

Anam Istafa, Sub editor, National Herald Tribune openly admits that female journalists are usually assumed to be dumb and so tender hearted for Hard news coverage especially of blasts and natural disasters. She says that very rare females are at the executive positions in media news media business. Most of them usually follow guideline and policies by their male bosses. Policy and decision makers are predominantly men.

Despite the increase of women’s visibility in media organizations, journalists in South Asia are hardly seen in the decision-making positions.

This was one of the several issues highlighted by more than 200 women working in the media from every SAARC country, who came together for the first time in Lahore, Pakistan, for a two-day meeting on ‘Women in Media – Challenges, Opportunities and Partnership’.

Women media persons from Maldives, Bhutan and Nepal pointed out that none of the print media in their country has ever had a female journalist heading the newsroom. Participants from India, Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka raised similar concerns, and also pointed out that man in their media organizations outnumbered women.

Most of the participants cited long and difficult working hours, lack of incentives and appreciation to keep women working in the media, fulfilling household obligations and unequal wages as some of the reasons why women in the media are under-represented at various levels in South Asia. These were also some of the reasons why most female media persons, after working for few years, leave the profession for other jobs.

Portrayal of women in the media as victims was also discussed extensively. Some of the participants pointed out that women make news in several South Asian news media only when they are victims of conflict, crime, natural disasters or terrorism.

However, one of the guest speakers, Pakistan’s federal information minister, Qamar Zaman Kaira, said: “Women journalists play an important role in voicing concerns of the victims in conflict areas, who are often women and children. Some of these victims are more comfortable sharing their experiences with female professionals.” He urged women media persons to also take up more serious and hard-hitting issues relating to politics, security and conflict.

Senior journalist in Pakistan, Shehar Bano, said at the conference that international research studies indicate transformation in news content brought on by an influx of women into the news media. “Issues such as health, education, child care and women workers have gained prominent slots in newspapers,” she said.

Bandana Rana from Nepal said, however, that there are also many female media persons, who are confined to covering only feature articles on art, culture and lifestyle and very few female reporters are assigned business, economics or political stories.

It was resolved during the meeting that female media persons should be given training opportunities to enhance their skills to cover all issues, along with mentorship programmes between senior and junior female journalists.

Former Chairperson, Department of Mass Communications at University of Karachi, Professor Shahida Qazi said she is happy that more and more Pakistani women are now joining media. She recalled when in 1966 she had joined Daily Dawn Karachi as a reporter, many people were surprised. She said now more than 70 percent of Karachi University students are women. She said in the Department of Mass Communications, there are more female students than males.

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Former Secretary Information Department, and TV compere Mehtab Akbar Rashdi said declaration of the state of emergency and curbs on media in Pakistan have shocked journalists, writers and human right activists. She said the dream of gender justice and equality could not materialize until change of mindset in male population. She said even today in the practical field female journalists face many problems due to this dogmatic thinking.

Rashdi said steps for empowerment of women should be taken from the home. She said parents should encourage their daughters to get higher education and work in every walk of life.

Electronic media in Pakistan is highlighting gender-related issues in a better way in comparison to print media, because more women journalists work in TV channels. Pakistani women have entered the field of journalism after a tough competition. Now women journalists and photographers could be seen working in Pakistani society and it is a welcome change.

Association of Television Journalists (ATJ) only has 50 females among its 700 or so members around the country, but nearly half of them are concentrated in the business capital of Karachi. Women have highly gained visibility in the Pakistani media as anchor persons and hosts of talk shows on dozens of private television and radio channels in English, Urdu and various regional languages.

Zebunnisa Burki, who has been coordinating South Asian Women in Media (SAWM) said while expressing he views that Women journalists are paid less than their male colleagues for equal amount of  work and have to fight harder for getting political or other high profile assignments. Most of the female journalists identify sexual harassment as their biggest concern.

In Pakistan women journalists are highly visible in electronic media than print media, which to some extent shows that they are used more as attention grabbers than news providers.

Some of the most prominent women working in Pakistani electronic media are

Aasma Chuhdry

Dr Ayesha Siddiqa

Katrina Hussain

Bushra Rehman,

Najia Ashar

Naseem Zehra

Saadia Afzaal

Sheren Mazari

Asma Sherazi

Zahida Hina

Sana Bucha

Sumaira Nadeem

Sana Mirza

Ayesha Baksh

And many more


Gender Equality

On International Women’s Day,  8 March 2005, UNESCO’s Director-General, Koïchiro Matsuura, launched for the fourth time the global initiative “Women Make the News”. UNESCO appeals to all media organizations producing daily news to hand over editorial responsibility to female journalists for that day. This was a step towards building a more secure future for women reporters.

Journalism Awards in Pakistan

The Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF) organizes the “Gender in Journalism Awards” to encourage gender sensitive reporting in the country and to honor those who report on the issue. UNESCO supports these awards, in which cash will be given will be given to Pakistani journalists.

Two awards will be given; one award recognizes models for excellence and best practices in coverage of gender related issues. It is open to both male and female journalists. The second award is specifically for the female journalist who has brilliantly covered any issue. Its aim is to promote and encourage women role models for other women who are either entering or planning to join this field of journalism. Journalists working in print media may nominate their own work, or editors and others may nominate articles that promote the objectives of the awards.

Radio Initiative by women and for women

femLINKpacific (Media Initiatives for Women), a women’s media NGO, launched in 2004 femTALK 89.2FM, a mobile women’s community radio project. In January 2005, as a result of the grant of UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Programme for the Development of Communication (IPDC), the femLINKpacific is taking the suitcase radio to women in their communities.

The aim of the femTALK 89,2FM project is to not only create a new space on radio for community based discussion, but it also aims at providing practical opportunities for women within their own communities to highlight and address issues prevailed to them.

The main goal of femLINKpacific’s range of community media initiatives is “women speaking to women for peace”. The decision making positions still lack equal representation of women and the ability of women, especially from the under developed population, to communicate openly on common issues and problems.

International Women’s Media Foundation

            International Women’s Media Foundation  was founded in 1990 and ever Since its creation, the International Women’s Media Foundation has conducted training programs in 26 countries of 5 different continents and over the Internet with the aim of strengthening the role of females in the news media worldwide.

The IWMF supports women in the media through groundbreaking projects, and innovative research and training designed to help women develop their skills and become leaders in their profession. Since 1990, the IWMF has honored more than 50 extraordinarily brave and hardworking journalists with Courage in Journalism Awards. The only international awards designed to recognize the contributions of women on journalism’s front lines, the Courage awards recognize women who have faced physical attacks, prison terms, beatings, rape, and death threats to themselves and their families.

Training Women Media Professionals

Internews is one of the world’s leading trainers of female media professionals, training more than 25,000 women in media skills since 2003 alone.

Internews  makes female journalists appearance more prominent in newsroom and other media especially  in societies where their participation has been marginalized and they are assigned only to report on insignificant issues. They train them to do reporting on all issues ans not just particularly women’s issues.

Mainstreaming Women’s Issues

To ensure that the media meet the needs of all audiences, Internews works to promote women’s leadership in the media organizations and to highlight and mainstream the issues of utmost importance to women.  

Internews is specialized in developing specialized programs for women and by women to throw light on gender sensitive issues such as gender based violence and women’s health issues, especially in areas where such issues are not reported or not given much importance.

Pakistan’s First Radio Program by and for Women

In Pakistan, where only three percent of journalists are women, Internews has worked to increase the number of women working in media, training women at journalism programs established by Internews at universities from Peshawar to Rawalpindi to Balochistan. Internews launched Meri Awaz Suno (Hear My Voice), the country’s first independent syndicated program that features women as both producers and subjects.

In 2003, Internews built a state-of-the art independent radio production facility in Islamabad where women journalists are trained from experts in the field of radio reporting and production. All production and pre and post production work is done by female journalists.

The radio show airs on 19 independent radio stations across the country, and focuses on issues such as politics, education and health. Before these training, most reporters working on Meri Awaz Suno had little or no experience of working in radio or of journalism. Now they are leaders of their field. It is no doubt the factory for producing independent female journalists and role models for young ones at entry positions.

Establishment of Forum Named :Women Journalists Pakistan (WJP)”

The women journalists of twin cities of Rawalpindi and Islamabad formally announced Women Journalists Pakistan (WJP) forum to address professional problems faced by them and find out ways to nurture their skills.

The ceremony was organized at the National Press Club, Islamabad in which Javed Akhtar, Director News Associated Press of Pakistan, Absar Alam, Anchor person Aaj TV, Qatrina Hussain, Anchor person Express TV and Fozia Shahid Anchor Person ATV shared their through provoking ideas and views with a large number of female journalists present there.

According to WJP members, the body is a non-political and intellectual-based forum that aims to provide platform to working women journalists in the print and electronic media.

In addition to raising a collective voice on issues faced by women journalists, the forum will initially focus on two basic aspects – networking and facilitating journalists avail media-related career-building opportunities.

The WJP hierarchy is:

Myra Imran of The News (Convener); Saadia Khalid, The News and Humaira Sharif of APP (Resource persons).

Working Group: Ayesha Habib (Dunya TV); Sehrish Majid (Apna TV), Anila Bashir- (Samaa), Asma Ghani (The Nation), Maimoona (Khabrain), Siddrah Bokhari (APP), Naheed Akhtar (APP), Shumaila Noreen (APP), Zahida Mahmood (APP), Ghazala Noreen (News-One TV), Saadia Masood (Rohi TV), Nazia Hameed (Channel 5), Afsh


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