Nigeria: Only One in Five News Stories Has Women As Protagonists in Nigeria, U.S., Others - Report

4 December 2020

"Nigeria lagged significantly behind the (five) other analyzed countries with only 15 per cent of protagonists being women"

Only one in every five news stories around the world is likely to have a woman as protagonist, a report launched on Thursday says.

The report also observed that women's centrality in news is highest in crime or violence and celebrity stories, and much less prominent in political news.

The report, the Missing Perspectives of Women in News, commissioned by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, examined women's representation in newsrooms, newsgathering and news coverage and found them mostly underrepresented.

Its analyses of media reports from India, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, the UK, and the U.S., showed that less than one per cent of news stories cover gender equality issues.

Authored by Luba Kassova, the director of AKAS, an international consultancy firm, the report's findings are rooted in the literature review of 2,286 articles and three case studies; content analysis of 11,913 publications and 56.9 million stories over 2019; analysis of 74 primary surveys; analyses of google trends and multi-country surveys.

The content analysis of the report, which was done by the Media Ecosystems Analysis Group, showed that women's voice as experts and sources in news was between 14 per cent and 30 per cent in all six countries examined.

"Women protagonists in the news in all our analyzed countries are far from achieving parity today, just as they were decades ago," the report said.

"Men feature as story protagonists three times more frequently in the UK and Kenya compared to women, four times more frequently in India, South Africa and the US and six times more frequently in Nigeria," it added.

The chances that men will be quoted at all in online news in the U.K. is twice that of women, thrice in South Africa and the U.S., four times more in Kenya, five times more in Nigeria and six times more frequently in India.

"Women's expert voices remain significantly muted in high profile news genres such as politics (where men's share of voices is between three and seven times higher than that of women) and the economy (where men's share of voices is between two and 31 times higher than that of women)."

Other findings

In particular, in 2019, the portrayal of women as protagonists in the news reports is 30 per cent in the UK, 23 per cent in Kenya, 21 per cent in India and the U.S., 20 per cent in South Africa (20%).

"Nigeria lagged significantly behind the other analyzed countries with only 15 per cent of protagonists being women," the report found.

In terms of diversity in the newsrooms in the analyzed countries, South Africa has near gender parity (49 per cent of journalists are women), followed by the UK 47 per cent and the U.S. 42-45 per cent, the same for Kenyan newsrooms which increased to 42 per cent in 2015 as against 35 per cent in 2009.

Although low, female journalists in India increased to 28 per cent in 2019, from 19 per cent in 2011, but may be declining in Nigeria from 38 per cent in 2011 to 24 per cent in 2015.

"South Africa also leads in terms of the proportion of women in senior leadership roles in news organizations (42 per cent of top editors in 2020 are women)," according to the report.

"Nigeria lags significantly behind in terms of senior leadership, as just four per cent of senior editorial roles in top newspapers in Nigeria are occupied by women.

"Women lag behind men globally in terms of career progression and salary. Research shows this gap in career progression could be narrowed if childcare and flexible working policies were implemented

"The UK trails these frontrunners, while Nigeria lags significantly behind all countries, with the limited evidence available showing that women are barely present at senior levels of news organisations.

"Data from a decade ago has shown that the women who had entered into careers in journalism in India and Kenya, although in a minority, were able to progress to senior leadership levels," the report further showed.

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