JOHANNESBURG: Women in the media have been advised to speak out and break the silence, as sexism and sexist attitudes remain a challenge in newsrooms.
The group editor-in-chief of Eye Witness News, Mahlatse Mahlase said this when addressing female journalists during a panel discussion on women in leadership at WITS Journalism recently.
Women in News (WIN) had organised the two-week media management training that attracted 25 women in media from Zimbabwe, Botswana, Zambia, Namibia, Tanzania and Kenya.
The media veteran who has worked for more than two decades as a journalist called on women in the media to force conversations on issues that affect them in the workplace.
This followed discussions on discrimination, sexual harassment, passed over promotion, lower payments to mention but a few that women in the media had pointed out to be a great challenge in their every day work.
“As media women you should know that you have the power to speak out on what you are subjected to, do not shy away from speaking out, break the silence,” said Mahlase.
“If you are not happy about something, report it to the company management. If it happens that they do not act, remember that you are journalists, use your media platforms to talk and disclose whatever you are subjected to.”
Mahlase said women in the media across the world experience similar challenges of increased sexual harassment while out on their jobs and at times some are prodded to wear sexy clothes to get the story.
She said in some countries women are paid less than men with the same experience in media and suffer bullying than their male counterparts. Mahlase called on women in the media not to bottle up on the abuse or any form of discrimination, but use the power of the pen to speak out.
She said even research has proven that female journalists continue to suffer abuse at the hands of their male co-workers, bosses, and sources while in the line of duty.
Mahlase said gender stereotypes still reflect across media houses as women are assigned to soft beats, sidelined in editorial decisions something that often blocks the rise of capable women.
She said being in a profession that is male dominated many women prefer not to speak out about specific difficulties and dangers to which they are exposed to in connection with their work.
“Just because their bosses are usually men, women in the media suffer in silence across the world. WIN did great for coming up with training of this nature meant to empower women in the media. I am hopeful that this training will equip and give you the courage to speak out, report any form of abuse you have been subjected to. Write stories or come up with radio or television talk shows that can address abuse in the workplace and break the barrier,” said Mahlase.
Some participants had opened up to Mahlase on how they are blocked to write front-page stories and identified as being weak just because they are women by their male managers.
Another female journalist gave an example of women who have been given leadership positions without authority as they are sidelined in decision-making and their male colleagues continue to undermine their authority.