Harassment report points need for better reporting mechanisms

Jan 27, 2022 at 10:23 am by admin

Progress continues to be slow in tackling sexual harassment in newsrooms, with more than a third of women saying they had been harassed at work.

A new study across 20 countries by WAN-Ifra’s Women in News unit says 40 per cent of women media professionals have experienced sexual harassment “of some kind”, and finds that women and “gender non-conforming” media professionals are almost three-and-a-half times more likely to experience harassment than men.

The study is the result of a partnership with City, University of London, and covered countries in Africa, southeast Asia, Eurasia (Russia), the Arab region and parts of Central America. Some 2000 people were surveyed between November 2020 and September 2021, with 85 senior executives interviewed.

Of the 41 per cent who had experienced verbal and/or physical sexual harassment in the workplace, fewer than one in five reported the incident. An average of 12 per cent of men said they had been harassed.

Women in News executive director Melanie Walker says women and gender non-conforming people are disproportionately affected. “While we have known this anecdotally, the findings from this research show that sexual harassment is an endemic problem in the industry – irrespective of geography,” she says.

“It is up to the industry to address this problem by being unequivocal in the stance against sexual harassment, and by having the policies and tools in place to manage incidents when they do occur in order to protect their staff, and create a safe environment for all”.

The report says 80 per cent of cases go unreported “largely due to fear” – of negative impact, losing their job, of not being believed, and of retaliation.

A quarter said they did not report their experience because their organisation lacked the mechanism to do so and/or they did not know how. Only 11 per cent of respondents reported knowing whether their organisations even had a sexual harassment policy.

Generally, management response was weak, with action in “only half of the cases” and most commonly limited to a warning.

Perpetrators were typically fellow employees (39 per cent) or management (19 per cent direct supervisor and 18.9 per cent higher management).

Researchers interviewed 85 executives, including 51 women, from media organisations in the five regions, with 43.5 per cent acknowledging that they themselves experienced sexual harassment – similar to the findings reported by women media professionals – yet only 27 per cent of the same executives believed that it is still an issue in the industry.

Lead researcher and senior lecturer Lindsey Brumell said the “gap in perspective” between journalists and management was remarkable, showing that “when clear and effective reporting mechanisms are not present, management are unaware of the problem of sexual harassment in their organisations”.

The first of its kind, the research builds on that carried out by Women in News in 2018, which identified a lack of available data on sexual harassment in media specifically from countries in these regions.

The research is now available online through an interactive site that allows users to break data down by region, country, gender, type of harassment as well as by management response. Additional data sets including type of media, seniority of the respondent, and third party observation of harassment, will be added over the next few weeks. The website is available in nine languages.

Walker said the aim was to make data around trends in sexual harassment more accessible, and to better inform media partners about sexual harassment in their newsrooms. “For many years we have provided the tools and resources to our partners as part of our training and sensitisation efforts. We believe this data will help our collective effort to establish the mechanisms, and bring about the culture change necessary, to root out sexual harassment for good,” she said.

A snapshot of findings in the Arab region, South East Asia, Central America, Africa, and Russia is available on wan-ifra.org. Please visit https://sexualharassment.womeninnews.org/research/for more details.

Sections: Newsmedia industry


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