Pres­sures women face in news­rooms

The Star Early Edition - - WAN IFRA CONGRESS -

SEX­UAL ad­vances, de­cid­ing whether to wear heels or flats, juggling house­hold de­mands and find­ing that in­ner su­per woman – fe­male jour­nal­ists said that a male-dom­i­nated me­dia in­dus­try left them hav­ing to fight harder.

Gath­ered at the Women in Me­dia sum­mit at the World As­so­ci­a­tion of News­pa­pers and News Pub­lish­ers (Wan Ifra) congress in Dur­ban, fe­male jour­nal­ists and ed­i­tors from around the world shared their ex­pe­ri­ences in the news­room in which they bat­tled to be con­sid­ered equal to their male coun­ter­parts, and at the same time man­age house­hold du­ties in an in­dus­try with long hours.

Chair of the SA Na­tional Ed­i­tors Fo­rum (Sanef), Mahlatse Gal­lens, who is also the deputy po­lit­i­cal editor at News24, said work­ing as a jour­nal­ist and be­ing fe­male came with many pit­falls.

“I’ve had politi­cians who have hit on me. They feel it’s okay to talk about my phys­i­cal at­tributes openly, and are not even shy to tell me to wear a dress with no stock­ings when I come to in­ter­view them. Apart from that, you still get peo­ple who think women can­not be a boss, or are too young to carry out the job.

“When fe­male staff mem­bers be­come pas­sion­ate about a dis­cus­sion and want to air their opin­ion, they are called emo­tional. We re­ally need some su­per pow­ers to be the mother, wife and jour­nal­ist al­ways on call and mon­i­tor­ing what’s hap­pen­ing in case we miss some­thing that’s news. I wish I knew how to be that su­per woman,” said Gal­lens.

She said she wished she had set more pa­ram­e­ters in her ear­lier days as a jour­nal­ist.

“I wish I found the bal­ance ear­lier. Jour­nal­ists need fam­ily time like any other per­son, more so to pro­vide that sup­port in deal­ing with a de­mand­ing ca­reer. They need their week­ends and to be with their chil­dren,” she said.

For­mer editor of Huff­in­g­ton Post SA, Verashni Pil­lay, shared her story of why she re­signed when a con­tro­ver­sial blog passed through their checks and bal­ances, land­ing them in hot wa­ter.

She added that as a fe­male, there was a mis­con­cep­tion that “hard work equated long hours”.

“In fact, I have seen women who re­turn from ma­ter­nity leave come to the of­fice with more fo­cus, be­cause they con­cen­trate on the work that needs to be done, so that they can leave the of­fice at a good time to be with their chil­dren. In fact, they are more pro­duc­tive,” said Pil­lay.

Helje Sol­berg, chief ex­ec­u­tive of VGTV in Norway, said she faced a dilemma when re­turn­ing to work af­ter ma­ter­nity leave.

“I love be­ing a jour­nal­ist, but I also needed to take care of my baby. They wanted me back in the po­lit­i­cal de­part­ment and I told them yes, but on con­di­tion I could leave at 2pm twice a week. And I got it,” she said.

Kjer­sti Løken Stavrum, chief ex­ec­u­tive of Tinius Trust in Norway, said it was im­por­tant to have a sup­port­ive fam­ily when work­ing in the me­dia in­dus­try.

“I worked long hours and in fact I was not able to help my chil­dren with their home­work. Thank­fully they did well, but this is what hap­pens in this in­dus­try,” she said.

Jor­dan’s Ju­nama Ghu­naimat, chief editor at Al Ghad pa­per, said she had to ex­plain to her chil­dren that she was “not like the other moms”.

“I ex­plained to them that I am dif­fer­ent, that their mom trav­els and does not work at home, but in an of­fice. And thank­fully they un­der­stood,” she said, adding that when she was ap­pointed to her po­si­tion, the news­room did not know how to re­act.

“I was the first editor-in-chief for an Ara­bic pa­per. I heard peo­ple ask ‘how could we deal with her’. It’s tough to be a jour­nal­ist in the Mid­dle East, never mind be­ing a fe­male one,” she added.

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