Gender stereotypes in Indian newsrooms

Women leaders' roundtable at Wan-Ifra Indian Media Leaders eSummit

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Gender stereotypes
(Clockwise from top): Ritu Kapur, CEO and co-founder at The Quint; Mehak Kasbekar from Brut India; Priyanka Tyagi, editor, Times Internet; and Megha Magmain from the health and lifestyle verticals, Jagran News Media.

Flexible work environments, gender stereotypes in purchasing decisions, diversity, and inclusiveness in the newsroom were key points of discussion at the women leaders’ roundtable organized by Wan-Ifra as part of its Indian Media Leaders eSummit on 19 July 2023. Ritu Kapur, CEO and co-founder at The Quint, was the moderator for the panel.

The work environment can be an impediment to women aiming at managerial roles. Women need flexible environments at work,” said Mehak Kasbekar from Brut India. She said women in news media should be allowed to design their maternity leave of six months in the way they want. Another issue discussed was period pain leave.

Megha Magmain from the health and lifestyle verticals, Jagran News Media, said that according to industry estimates, there are 17% of women in junior reporting roles. Due to generational conditioning and responsibilities at home, women have to deal with a lot of guilt at the workplace, she said, adding the road to equality has to be built through equity.

Gender stereotypes in news media

Kasbekar said there are a lot of gender stereotypes in purchasing decisions, both at work and at home. Advertisers, she said, have this strong belief that the purchasing decisions are in the hands of men and so they are mostly interested in what is perceived as male-centric news such as politics, sports, and finance. This, she said, created the need for different content targeted at women. Kasbekar felt that instead of these preconceived notions, advertisers need to treat women as intelligent individuals who are interested in opinion pieces and politics.

Priyanka Tyagi, editor, Times Internet, agreeing with Kasbekar’s views, said these days women are responsible for a wide range of purchasing decisions, including family insurance, cars, and pantry needs. Advertisers on Times Internet websites have woken up to the fact that they have a large women audience with buying power. She felt the consumption of products targeted at women will increase as they make more and more decisions.

According to Magmain, in the media, women are considered as one homogeneous group and this needs to change as they have a wide representation according to caste, class, and region. “Further, most media houses have their headquarters in Delhi or Mumbai. We need to bridge this gap and come up with women-led digital initiatives so that we have a wider representation and diversity of women in news media. We need to take a huge leap and build inclusive and diverse newsrooms with women’s voices talking above the business environment.”

We look for token representation and token diversity while we should be looking for differences in language, background, and point of view, Magmain said. “This will make a huge difference to storytelling and build that trust in an underrepresented community.”

Tyagi said women need to put across a certain kind of attitude and dress like a man in order to be taken seriously in a male-dominated newsroom. “We need to have more and more women in leadership roles in the media.”

The tonality of reportage on crimes against women needs to change in the news media, Magmain said. Instead of writing ‘A woman was raped,’ we need to start writing ‘Man rapes woman’ in news stories. Similarly, we need to stop using illustrations of women in crouching positions for these stories. These nuances would create a huge impact on building narratives, she said.

Magmain said there is a huge perception that all women are mothers or going to be mothers and this creates an imbalance in situations at the workplace, leading to more leadership roles going to men. Similarly, women suffering from chronic illnesses are treated in a certain way at the workplace. “Diversity and inclusion will go a long way in altering these rigid mindsets.”

We need to get rid of the mindset that women will be promoted at the cost of women, she concluded.

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