A groundbreaking new report From Outrage to Opportunity: How to Include The Missing Perspectives of Women of All Colours in News Leadership and Coverage has found that women continue to be significantly underrepresented in editorial leadership roles and news coverage worldwide – with their voices muted in a global news industry still dominated by men. Disappointing, but not altogether surprising.
The report, authored by Luba Kassova (a friend of Missing Perspectives) and commissioned by the Gates Foundation, found that women are still on the margins of editorial decision-making in the highest-profile news beats. For every woman who is an editor-in-chief, there are between two (in South Africa, the US and the UK), and 12 (in Indian regional news outlets) male editors-in-chief. Across the prominent beats of business, politics and foreign affairs, women hold as few as 1 in 6 editorial roles.
Adopting an intersectional lens, Kassova and her team found that on the off chance leaders of news are women of colour suffer, “extraordinary marginalisation.” In countries researched, including South Africa, the UK and the US, research showed that women of colour are often completely locked out of editorial decision-making in the highest-profile beats. Beyond that, their representation in these arenas is significantly lower than their actual workforce participation. Basically, they’re working behind the scenes while other people call the shots and not seeing themselves in what makes it to air/print.
In the UK, not one person of colour occupies the most senior editorial decision-making positions in politics and health news beats, AND no women of colour occupy the most senior editorial positions in foreign affairs beats. The US has a similar landscape, with only 3% of political and 4% of foreign affairs editors women of colour. Kassova notes that broadening the lens to overlay race onto gender “frankly exposed my ignorance about the level of suffering and exclusion that women of colour face along the news value chain in multi-racial societies such as South Africa, the UK and the US.”
Kassova and her team also found that there is a huge gap in the coverage of issues that affect women disproportionately. Only 0.02% of news coverage globally focuses on seven substantive gaps between men and women in pay, power, safety, authority, confidence, health and ageism. The report states that to widen the storytelling lens, women’s inclusion in editorial decision-making and as news contributors must improve dramatically.
Leaders in the news industry have praised Kassova’s report for being solution-oriented, with the report outlining 12 solutions that are available not only to change the status quo and improve women’s representation and inclusion in news leadership, but also to create more balanced and inclusive news coverage that engages more female and radically diverse audiences.
Kassova found that the key drivers for the inclusion of women in news leadership include retaining talent i.e. give us a reason to want to keep working for you, being intentional about change and introducing targets, improving women’s representation in top-tier management, and modelling success on women trailblazers in high profile beats.
Luba remarks that she was surprised by the “enormous arsenal of strategic and operational ideas that are available to the news industry to unlock the stalled progress.” and was taken aback by the “plethora of interventions along the news value chain that emerged.” She notes that if implemented, they would significantly improve women’s representation and inclusion in news leadership and coverage.
Qaanitah Hunter, a News24 Assistant Editor, hopes that this report “should serve as a zeitgeist for transformation in newsrooms” and honestly, so do we. There’s a lot of work to do. Lucky here at Missing Perspectives, we’re not afraid to roll up our sleeves, run up that hill and blaze a trail for others to follow.
First published in Missing Perspectives on December 20, 2022