“Female journalists in the US worked together to demand equality at the workplace and began to mentor juniors,” Nina Maria Fite, US Consul General in Lahore said at a consultation on Tuesday.
The consultation ‘Empowering women representatives in media for the protection of women workers’ rights in general’ was organised by the Women Workers Organisation in collaboration with the US Consulate General.
Female journalists struggled for decades to get professional recognition in the US since newsrooms were largely dominated by men, she said.
“With women being given ‘soft beats’ as opposed to ‘hard beats,’ they had to develop coalitions to ensure that equal professional opportunities were provided to them,” she said. She said Katherine Graham and Cokie Roberts showed the way to win space for women in the US media.
“How can we address the issues of women workers without addressing the issues of women in media?” WWO Executive Director Aima Mehmood asked.
She said that with media taking the lead in social activism, it was unfortunate to see women in media organisations facing discrimination. “The common argument male journalists will put is that female journalists are hesitant to take on challenging roles in journalism,” she said.
“If a female journalist wants to break the norm and do hard beats, the respective media organisations discourages them,” Xari Jalil, a freelance journalist said.
Women in media as men did not get the same salary packages, promotions, benefits and professional opportunities, she said. They are actively limited to covering ‘soft’ stories, she said.
Urdu Times Editor Nosheen Naqvi said there is a need to give women a greater say in media policy making. “We know the problem. Let’s find a solution,” she said.
Punjab Institute of Language, Art and Culture (PILAC) Director Dr Sughra Sadaf said that women in media face resistance once promoted to top positions in their organisations. She said, “There is a need to tackle the mentality which discriminates against women in a professional environment.”
Veteran journalist Iftikhar Rasul put the blame on former journalists, rights’ activists and influential media personnel. He said that chauvinist attitudes are the biggest hurdle in the professional growth of female journalists.
“Activist groups and government departments must coordinate to address the situation,” said Rasul.
Advisor to the Chief Minister Zakia Shahnawaz said education could end gender discrimination, especially at the work place.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 25th, 2012.