Our 2017 Annual Seminar

‘Women and the Media’ Afternoon Event (4th October, 15:00 – 17:00)

Held in the Inter-Parliamentary Union, Houses of Parliament, Westminster, London

We are all aware of the huge impact of all types of media. How women are represented, through content and graphics, perpetuates the commodification of the female form and notions of worth. Who represents women and girls and how they are represented is vital. The review theme of CSW 2018 is participation in and access of women to the media, and information and communications technologies and their impact on and use as an instrument for the advancement and empowerment of women. It was with this in mind that we chose our theme for this year’s Annual Seminar afternoon session to be ‘Women in the Media’.

Hosted by Dr. Roberta Blackman-Woods MP, Shadow International Development Minister in the Houses of Parliament, the Seminar on Women and the Media was widely attended and considered issues around women’s participation in the media, their influence on the media, and in turn how the media is influencing the lives of women and girls, including notions of gender. Dr. Blackman-Woods opened the Seminar with a warm welcome to attendees, underlining the importance of pursuing gender equality across all industries. We are very grateful for Dr Blackman-Woods’ support in hosting the event, our expert speakers, and of course everyone who attended and contributed to such a fantastic and meaningful discussion. If you weren’t able to attend or would like a refresher on our main conclusions and points for action discussed, they are summarised below – as well as some notes on each of our speakers’ key points.

Key messages
  • the ubiquitousness of online content driven by Social Media highlights a need for sharing of factual counter-narratives to harmful gender stereotypes, and for courage to tackle these issues for women and girls working in the media;
  • negative representations of gender and women in the media highlight the need for men and women to work together to address negative stereotypes and practices;
  • cultural and societal values have inhibited progression of women in the media industry, with women worldwide experiencing roadblocks to advancement in the field;
  • showcasing of women in the media and tech-companies can generate role models for young women and highlight pathways into these industries;
  • renewed political will is needed to tackle issues of gender equality in the media;
  • technology is and can enable women’s participation in the workplace and be a powerful tool for change, however further training to mitigate bias in recruitment is needed;
  • in order to tackle global issues, a united front is required, no one nation state can hope to regulate global flows of information, however member states should work together alongside tech giants to ensure adequate safeguards for young men and women are achieved.
Summaries of some of our fantastic speakers’ key points

Lucy Owen, NAWO Young Women’s Alliance (YWA): “Women in Cyber Security: The Next Generation”

Lucy Cole, a NAWO YWA delegate, at CSW 61 (2017)

Ms. Owen opened her address by advising of the establishment of the National Cyber Security Centre in Bletchley Park. However, despite opportunities presented by the new facility, Ms. Owen noted that many women in cyber security face gender-based stereotypes and roadblocks, whilst also facing a distinct lack of female role models. She also underscored the importance of providing female role models in the field through showcasing of successful females in the tech and cyber-security industries. In order to mitigate issues in recruitment (with men and women both twice as likely to appoint a man over a women for roles in technology) Ms Owen highlighted the pressing need for diversity training in the workforce. Ms. Owen also noted that despite opportunities presented by flexible working arrangements in tech-based industries, gender pay gaps persist with females paid 16% less than their male counterparts.

Ahlam Akram, Journalist: “Women and Media in the Middle East”

Ms. Akram spoke on her personal experience of censorship in the media, including societal pushback against Arab women in the industry, noting that the Media can be an 

unsafe place for women. Ms. Akram advised that a tight interlink between culture and religion favours male counterparts, as the onus of “not airing ones dirty laundry in public: falls more heavily on women – and thus, women within this context often find themselves marginalised. Ms. Akram advised that today the media is more open, with a division in society emerging on the rights of women in the workforce and media. However certain cultural practices persist which impede day-to-day functioning of women journalists. Not least the custom of women requiring male guardians to escort them in public places making it harder for a women journalist to go anywhere and operate effectively and independently.

Eleanor Bruce NAWO YWA: “Gender Equality & Digital Regulation”:

Ms. Bruce posed the question of whether media giants such as Facebook and youtube should be more responsible for the content they handle, noting its huge potential for good or harm. Ms. Bruce advised that young women are particularly affected by Social Media, with negative notions of gender and body norms exacerbating young women’s negative beliefs, and a 70% increase in mental illness in teenagers underlines the real-life consequences on online content. Ms. Bruce also noted that derogatory comments generated and shared on online platforms also harm reputation of Social Media companies themselves generating huge financial losses, as Twitter experienced in 2016. Despite being in the best interest of companies providing these platforms, anonymity offers users the ability to voice their views without accountability. The ubiquitousness of Social Media now allows negative and gender stereotypes to invade safe spaces like the home whilst also being widely accessible to the public. Despite ethical implications and capacity issues which crowd the discussion on regulation of Social Media giants, a line needs to be drawn which balances open communication whilst providing adequate safeguards for young men and women. Unregulated SM is working against gender social norms. Whether the answer lies in monitoring of influential Social Media accounts, or designing algorithms to highlight areas of concern, what is clear is that regulation is required.

Ingrid Stellmacher, Journalist, Founder/CEO Le Menach Foundation“Women and the Media”

Ms. Stellmacher warned attendees that credible journalism is under attack and that the democratisation of Social Media has driven journalism from truth to opinion. And, as Ms. Stellmacher noted, opinion matters. Politically speaking opinion has always mattered. However, in the age of Social Media and online news content, now local stories have become global stories, now local issues spread faster than ever. The saturation of our daily lives with online content means that there is less time to digest information with people often driven by issues depending on the content and news that drops into their inbox. Social Media platforms feed the notion that fast information is better than accurate information. Telling attendees to fake their tan not their news, Ms. Stellmacher advised that the concept of fake news was now such an important issue that Youtube news has established ways to try to teach people to identify fake news, and Google has launched workshops on five fundamentals of media: Voice, Story, Courage, Community, and Action. Ms. Stellmacher noted that courage is one such pillar which applies in particular to women. Social Media connects likeminded people from particular sometimes marginalised communities. When these communities propel negative assumptions of gender, using a counter narrative is important which maintains a focus on the perpetrator, and provides them with an opportunity to be part of the solution. And what is clear, is that in an era of big data, global networks of social media, and the driving of news content through opinion and emotion, counter narratives and courage for women in the media are important than ever.