Gender-sensitive reporting

What is gender-sensitive reporting?

For the media to accurately mirror societies and produce coverage that is complete and diverse, it is critical that it reflects the world as seen through the eyes of all genders. Journalists can help to change attitudes by portraying women and men as equally valued and diverse, rather than re-enforcing problematic gender-based stereotypes.

Gender-sensitive reporting is the practice of producing media content in a way which is sensitive to gender inequalities and portrays women and men fairly.

Gender-sensitive reporting should be considered a key principle of professional media production, similar to values of accuracy and balance. Gender must be considered at all levels of news production: from the editorial department where decisions are made about what stories to cover, to the field where stories are gathered.

Read more

I Spent Two Years Trying to Fix the Gender Imbalance in My Stories, article by Ed Yong in the Atlantic, February 6, 2018

How can media report in a gender-sensitive way?

Media outlets and journalists can report in a gender-sensitive way through:

Online courses

AWiM Learning provides an online course on Identifying Gendered Angles and Impact Stories.
The AMEGI platform has a learning unit on Gender and the strategic use of language.

Selection of sources and stories

For journalists and producers selecting media sources, it is crucial to strive to balance the presence of women and men. This allows the media to accurately reflect society and the actions, views and concerns of all genders.

The inclusion of women who are experts in their fields is especially important, particularly in areas traditionally dominated by men’s voices such as politics, economics, conflict, science and sports.

Overall, it is important for journalists to strive to:

  • Ask equal numbers of women and men for their opinions on all topics.
  • Cover issues of particular importance to women’s lives.
  • Make special consideration to include and represent the diverse stories and voices of people who are least visible in media (for example, older women).
  • Consider additional gender angles to major news stories.
  • Seek the expertise of women and women’s organizations to see whether there is an alternative interpretation or a more significant story to be reported.
  • Ensure balanced representations of all genders in visual and multimedia aspects of a story.

Go to increasing women’ s voices

To find specific strategies to increase the participation of women as experts in media content.

Elimination of gender stereotypes

The media play a very significant role in shaping public perceptions about women and men, which is why it is crucial that reporting avoids and challenges gender stereotypes. A gender stereotype is a preconceived idea where women and men are assigned characteristics and roles determined and limited by their gender. These stereotypes present an inaccurate view of the world and limit both women and men. Stereotypes influence what society may expect from people based on their gender, and also what people expect of themselves.

It is therefore crucial to:

  • Ensure that coverage reflects a holistic and realistic view of people of all genders.
  • Not assign generalized stereotypical characteristics to people based on gender. For example, do not imply that girls are always shy and boys are aggressive, that men are admired for their accomplishments and women for their physical attributes, or that women are passive victims and men are active survivors.
  • Try not to make any gender-based assumptions. For example, try to avoid representing certain roles or jobs as only held by women or men respectively – like portraying all domestic care-givers as women or all public leaders as men.
  • Treat all subjects with dignity. Avoid belittling women’s experiences and concerns.
  • Provide adequate context, balance and analysis of gender. This may include looking beyond the events surrounding a story to raise underlying issues.
  • Be sensitive to and avoid any double-standards in the gendered use of images, especially ones that emphasize physical or sexual aspects of women.

Language matters

Using gender-sensitive language can make it easier to see important differences between the needs of women and men and challenge unconscious assumptions people have about gender roles in society. To be truly equal, women and men must be seen and heard to be equal. This means eliminating language that misrepresents, excludes or offends women. In particular:

  • Avoid using ‘he’ as a generic pronoun. For example, instead of ‘If a student studies hard, he will succeed’, use ‘If a student studies hard, they will succeed’. Instead of ‘Every nurse should take care of her own uniform and cover the expense herself’, use ‘Every nurse should take care of their own uniform and cover the expense themselves’. 
  • Avoid using ‘man’ as a generic noun, as if men represent the whole human race. For example, to make language more inclusive use ‘humanity’, ‘human beings’ or ‘people’ instead of ‘mankind’.
  • Avoid gender-specific words when describing a job or career. Gender neutral examples include: ‘camera operator’ or ‘film-maker’, instead of ‘cameraman’; ‘chairperson’, ‘chair’ or ‘president’ instead of ‘chairman’; and ‘police officer’ instead of ‘policeman’.
  • When describing a characteristic of a woman, ask yourself whether you would ever use this word to describe a man (and vice versa). If not, then look for a term without gender connotations. 
  • Describe a woman as her own person, and not in relationship to someone else. Try to avoid forms of address that depict a woman as the mere appendage of her husband, which trivialises women or renders them invisible. Instead of ‘The steward seated Mr Clinton and his lovely wife Hillary’, use ‘The steward seated Mr and Mrs Clinton’.

(Adapted from EIGE’ s gender-sensitive communication toolkit)

Test your knowledge

The European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE) has a quiz with gender insensitive language in policy documents, job vacancies and legal texts. Can you find the gender insensitive language?

Learn more

The Gender Sensitive communication toolkit by EIGE provides practical tools and examples of language to use.
How to Be Inclusive and Grammatically Correct: A Guide for Journalists on the Gender Beat. Article by Mikhail Yakovlev, Media Diversity Institute.

Coverage of gender equality issues

Covering gender equality issues and discussions should be treated as an important and integral part of the media’s role as a watchdog of society.

It is not only important that regular media content is gender-sensitive and takes into account all perspectives, but media can also be a tool to raise awareness about women’s issues and concerns related to gender inequality.

Some examples of media created to address gender inequality include:

Raising awareness for child marriage
In the ‘Save the Date’ programme in Nepal, a radio soap was produced, informing people in an accessible way about the consequences of child marriage. This is an example of making sensitive issues open for discussion through media and improving the position of women and girls in society.

Media content challenging taboos and stereotypes
Through the radio program ‘Témoin Spécial’, AFEM in the Democratic Republic of Congo raised awareness about gender–sensitive issues at local and national levels to improve the day to day situations for Congolese women. After listening to the program, local audiences were able to discuss topics that they were ashamed to talk about before. The slogan of the show was: ‘Taboo issues are no longer a mystery’.

Fellowship for photojournalists
In Central America, Free Press Unlimited supported a gender fellowship by El Salvadorean partner Fundación Latitudes. In this programme, photojournalists learned how to create stories that challenge gender stereotypes and address women’s rights.

Investigative journalism grant for gender issues
The third round of Fondo Spotlight, an investigative journalism grant from the European Journalism Centre in Bolivia, exclusively supported investigations on gender topics. The stories produced were on issues such as sexual violence, discrimination and women’s rights.  You can find the stories on the website.

Tool

The Editorial Team Checklist for Development Gender Sensitive and Gender Transformative Programmes was developed by BBC Media Action and provides a checklist for editors when designing their programmes.

Tool

The handbook Investigating Anti-LGBTQI+ Hate: A Reporting Guide for Journalists by Taboom Media features relevant background, tips, and sources to help journalists investigate and report on how faith groups and NGOs foment anti-LGBTQI+ hatred in the U.S. and abroad. 

Tools & resources

Guidelines on gender-sensitive reporting
A Gender Balance Guide For Media by Women in News
Guidelines for Gender Sensitive Reporting, by Anita Ramsak.
Gender Sensitive communication toolkit by the European Institute for Gender Equality.
The Trans Journalists Association’s Style Guide is a tool reporters, editors and other media makers can use to begin to improve trans coverage.
Guidelines for Gender and Conflict-sensitive Reporting, by Monica Ellena and Olena Honchar.
The Learning resource kit for gender-ethical journalism, by IFJ and WACC, gives guidelines on how to report on issues like economics, politics, peace and security from a gender perspective.
Covering sexual and gender minorities & religion in Sub-Saharan Africa, written and e dited by Brian Pellot and published by Religion News Foundation and Heinrich Böll Stiftung Southern Africa.
Guidelines by Zero Tolerance on how to report on Violence Against Women. UNESCO also published a handbook on reporting on Violence Against Women and Girls.
Level Up published guidelines on how to report on domestic violence deaths.