The goal of a just, equitable society for all women remains a work in progress – progress in which every step forward has been a struggle, and strengthening and sustaining gains has been a challenge.
The challenges arise not just from the inherent character of media industries but also from the cultural and geopolitical context in which media operate. Any setback in these areas has an impact on how women get to participate in media as employees and how they are depicted on media.
The Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation, Government of India, projects the population of women in India to be 48.65%. The alarming drop in sex ratio between the 2001 and 2011 censuses has slightly recovered with 949 women to 1000 men in rural areas and 929 women to 1000 men in urban India. Regional variations persist with some regions registering a low of 903 women to 1000 men.
Indian Women In Media
Now, women's presence as journalists and subjects or sources for news is on the decline rate in India. However, the trend in TV media showed a preference for females at work that could be pegged as "sexism at work reinforcing the notions of glamour and fashion", a new study has revealed.
The sixth edition of the study by the Global Media Monitoring Project, which was carried out in India in partnership with the Network of Women in Media in India (NWMI), depicted the presence of female staff in news as subjects and sources "dropped drastically" in India last year to 14 per cent across print, radio and TV as against 22 per cent in 2010 and 21 per cent in 2015. In 2020, men dominated the coverage as subjects and sources ranging from 68 per cent to 89 per cent across all news platforms, Deccan Herald reported
Amplifying the bias against women in media, the study stated that women were depicted as sources mainly in the 'gender and relevant category (32%) and least in the 'government and politics' category (11%). Even in the gender genre, men figured more often as subjects and sources (68%).
The other category in which the number of women was high is Celebrity, Sports, Arts and Media (25%) followed by Social and Legal (17%), Crime and Violence (15%) and Science and Health (14%), Economy (12%).
"The fact that more female media persons figured as subjects and sources in the gender category reveals that while women are under-represented in news in all other genres, they are more likely to appear on the screen if they are victims of gender-based violence or assault," the study said.
Not just as subjects or sources, even the number of women journalists are decreasing. Between 2015 and 2020, there has been a drastic decrease in the number of women reporters in print media from 43% to 13% and from 60% to 52% in television. However, radio was not a part of a study in 2015 but it had 20% women reporters in 2020.
Highest Proportion Of Women Journalists In TV
Continuing the trend over the last ten years, the highest proportion of women as journalists is in TV. Around 52% of women were working as reporters, announcers and presenters on TV than in print media(13%) or in radio (20%).
"The preference for women of a younger age group in TV could be hidden sexism at work, reinforcing the notions of glamour and fashion, and attractive young females drawing audiences based on their looks rather than the content of the news," the study stated.
If one examines the age profile, older women were featured less in visual media compared to the print. More women (45%) from a younger age group (19-34) were news subjects on TV than in print (38%). In print media, there are 19% female news subjects in the age group of 65-79, and in the 19-34 age group.
According to the study, women news sources continued to be drawn from occupations outside the core of the power structure, such as the entertainment sector and the social work or social activism sector. Only 10% of female news sources were politicians or MPs while 60% were from the celebrity, artist, actor, writer, singer, etc., category.
Globally, women's presence as spokespersons rose to 24% in 2020 from 19% in 2015 while in India, women's function as spokespersons dropped to 8% in 2020 from 15% in 2015.
"In 2020, female news subjects were found in 18% of the stories, but they were spokespersons and experts in only 8% of the stories. This marks a decline from 2015 across the board – five years ago, women appeared as news subjects in 27% of the stories, as spokespersons in 15% and as experts in 12%," it added.