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Where things stand for women in the Scottish media in December 2020

During November and December of 2020, Women in Journalism Scotland ran an online survey, collecting 92 responses from women working in media from right across Scotland. Gender Equal Media Scotland was pleased to work with them on some analysis of the findings.

The results show that:

  • 18% of women have lost their jobs and a further 29% fear losing their jobs within a year
  • 38.5% of women freelancers have lost more than half of their commissions
  • 61% said abuse directed at journalists had increased in the past year and 36% were abused while doing their jobs this year
  • 56% have taken on extra workload and responsibilities as a result of the pandemic with no compensation
  • 78% of women working in the media with children under 16 saw childcare responsibilities fall to them during the pandemic
  • 50.5% said their mental health deteriorated during 2020 to the point it impacted their ability to do their job

Gender equality in the media has regressed in 2020

Gender equality in the media industry has taken a serious hit as a result of the 2020 pandemic, as the results of the survey show. The figures reveal significant job losses, overwhelming workloads and unmanageable caring commitments that have pushed some to cut their hours or give up work altogether.

With the majority reporting that the level of abuse directed at female journalists has increased this year, the net result is that more than half of women working in the media have seen a serious deterioration in mental health over the pandemic.

And, 50 years after the Equal Pay Act came into force, equal pay is still overwhelmingly the issue that women feel needs addressing most urgently, followed by online abuse.

Catriona MacPhee, Co-chair of Women in Journalism Scotland, said: “It has been quite heartbreaking to go through the results of this survey and read of the experiences of not just a few, but dozens upon dozens of women, who say they are barely coping.

“This has undoubtedly been a terrible year for everyone, but it’s clear that women have been disproportionately affected by cuts in the industry and by the regression of equality in the workplace and at home. This has serious implications when media reporting has never been more important.

“At the same time, while it’s extremely worrying to see an increase in hostility towards all journalists in 2020, women are being targeted more, particularly with sexist and personal abuse. We are deeply worried by this trend and believe that, as an industry, it’s time we joined forces across the board to not only stamp out unacceptable attacks, but to ensure proper support and protection is given to those being abused."

Alys Mumford, chair of the Gender Equal Media Scotland Coalition, said:

“These stark survey results show that the challenges already facing women in the media in Scotland have been exacerbated by the disproportionate impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on women.

“Already more likely to be in precarious employment, on part-time hours, or undertaking freelance work, this year has seen women in the media facing further job uncertainty, increased unpaid care work, and deteriorating mental health.

“Black and minoritised women, disabled women, and women from other under-represented groups will be at even greater risk from the combined threats of the Covid-19 pandemic, and institutional sexism in the media.

“2020 has highlighted, perhaps more than ever, the necessity of good journalism. Unless media institutions change their structures to better support women – tackling sexism, examining workplace cultures, ensuring that childcare isn’t a barrier to employment, and taking action against online abuse – Scotland will not have the media that women need.

“We are grateful to organisations like Women in Journalism Scotland who are working to highlight these issues, and look forward to working with them for a gender-equal media in the coming year.”

Find out more about the results, including quotes from participants, at the Women in Journalism Scotland website.

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