COVID-19 Response – Learning and Sharing session on Gender Content Monitoring (23 November)

In November, Learning and Sharing sessions on the topic of gender and gender equality in the media were organised as part of the COVID-19 Response in Africa: Together for reliable information project. On Tuesday 23 November, the session on Gender Content Monitoring was held. Adenike Aloba, managing editor of Dataphyte and former Program Manager with the Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism, led the session. 

Gender Content Monitoring

Adenike began with an explanation of what Gender Content Monitoring actually is: in essence, it’s analysing who is seen and heard in the news. Gender Content Monitoring is still needed today because the media not only reflects society but it also shapes narratives. Thus, monitoring specifically for gender allows for “a data driven approach to challenge bias and discrimination”. Adenike walked participants through an exercise to demonstrate Gender Content Monitoring in practice. Participants were asked to select a random news article of their choosing,  and count how many times a man was mentioned and how many times a woman was mentioned. This illustrated a clear pattern that regardless of the story, men tend to be referenced more often than women.

Gender Mainstreaming

In another exercise, participants searched for articles that had a gender angle in COVID-19 stories reflecting the pandemic’s impact on women. Through this exercise, it became clear that there is a separation of women from mainstream news. For example, although women were more likely to lose their jobs due to the pandemic, no articles could be found that discussed this issue alongside other implications of the pandemic. Instead entire (separate) articles are dedicated to COVID-19’s impact on women. This demonstrated that gender needs to be mainstreamed across all issues. In the context of the media, gender mainstreaming refers to the integration of a gender equality perspective across all news stories.

Gender Content Monitoring indices

Towards the end of the session, Adenike introduced participants to Gender content monitoring indices, which can be used by anyone to analyse an article. Sources/ voices refers to how an article discusses a woman. A woman may be used as a source but her voice may not be used (she is not quoted). The role/function considers how a women is being identified and whether she is being identified by her familial role. For example, is a female politician being cast as the wife of someone? Occupation refers to the kind of position women hold position in the media. Adenike explained that in Nigeria, there is a great disparity of female authors on print mediums and online but there are more women on TV and radio. Topics are the kind of stories that are being written about women. How women are being portrayed is a key issue here. Finally, the question of whether an article uses any gender stereotypes should be considered. Does the article not just report on stereotypes but also challenge them?

As Adenike explained, gender data is often considered a special interest topic, yet the growing consensus is that gender should be mainstreamed across all issues. This discussions that took place in this session and the data reviewed illustrate the need for gender mainstreaming to become more common in order for the media to improve it’s narrative of gender equality.