Media has key role to play in gender equality agenda — Executive Director

Press statement by UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka at second Symposium on Gender in the Media and launch of global study on gender stereotypes in film, at UN Headquarters in New York, 22 September 2014.


(New York, 22 September) 

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UN Women is proud to be a partner on “Gender Bias without Borders.” 

The study reflects ugly truths: the deep-seated discrimination and gender stereotyping that women and girls experience in virtually every society. The study reveals how often film makers perpetuate these attitudes.

Film has a key role — to shape and solidify social norms.
With their powerful role in shaping the perceptions of large audiences, the media are a key player for the gender equality agenda.

We seek your support.

In 1995, 189 governments convening in Beijing, China for the World Conference on Women adopted the Beijing Platform for Action, which has become the international road map for gender equality. It called for more women in decision-making positions in the media, and for codes of conduct to avoid stereotypical and degrading depictions of women. Twenty years on, this call is still as relevant. 

This is true also for the news media. Available research shows that almost three quarters of all top management positions are still held by men. The effect of this underrepresentation of women in media decision-making is a lack of inclusion and diversity. Only a fraction of all news stories focus specifically on women, and only a quarter of people interviewed, seen or heard are women.

Our study today confirms this correlation of representation and content, and the way in which leadership by women facilitates significant increases in the number of female characters on screen.

The question is: How do we get more women into leadership positions?
In countries in Europe, where women have made the biggest strides in terms of leadership in media, half of all companies surveyed had gender equality policies. And at the national level, there are policies against workplace discrimination, as well as provisions for childcare and parental leave.

We need proactive measures that foster gender balance within the industry. But what is equally needed is for governments to create a policy environment that is conducive for women in media and beyond.

This study provides a wake-up call and important direction for change.

We look forward to working with our partners in this industry – among them the role models such as Geena Davis herself, and our Goodwill Ambassador Emma Watson — to achieve the changes we need to see in reversing stereotyping, and working towards positive modelling of a world where gender equality is reality.

Thank you!