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Four women told us what it’s like to be a top executive in Latin America's news media industry

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Four women told us what it’s like to be a top executive in Latin America's news media industry

In commemoration of International Women’s Day, and ahead of our Women in News Summit in Portugal in June, WAN-IFRA interviewed four prominent women from Latin America’s media industry to talk about their professional paths, identify key challenges that they have come across, and assess whether these obstacles affect journalistic content.

Worldwide, the percentage of women working in media, newspapers, radio, and TV increased from 27% to 41% between 2000 and 2015, according to the Global Media Monitoring Project. However, in Latin America, the International Women’s Media Foundation (IWMF) affirmed in 2011 that men outnumbered women working in the media industry in Argentina, Chile, Costa Rica, and Ecuador.

Furthermore, the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB) reported that in 2016, women were still underrepresented in top-level business positions throughout Latin America, reaching just 9.2% of executive positions, 8.5% of board seats and 4.2% of CEO positions. Moreover, gender-based wage gap remains a prominent reality across most of the continent.

Isabel Amorim is the Market and Digital Director at Editora Abril, one of Brazil’s biggest media houses and publisher of VEJA, one of the country’s most influential weekly magazines. She argues that the above is also a reality inside media companies in Latin America. She attributes this to several factors, such as women’s late integration into Latin America’s labour force.

“The most important newspapers in Latin America are run by men. There are very few cases of women running newsrooms,” Amorim says. “I think this is a matter of age: perhaps we would need to wait for a new generation so that women are more present to the media market. Taking into consideration that women had a late entrance to the workforce, there are more male candidates meeting the experience required to take an executive position in the journalism industry. But this trend might only change in 10 to 15 years.”

 “The most important newspapers in Latin America are run by men. There are very few cases of women running newsrooms.”
– Isabel Amorim Sicherle,
Market and Digital Director at Editora Abril

Likewise, Ginna Morelo highlights a technological factor behind this unbalance. She is the Data Unit Director at El Tiempo, Colombia’s largest circulation newspaper, and President at Consejo de Redacción, an association that promotes investigative journalism and joint collaborations among journalists. “It has to do with technological appropriation. What is missing is that women start to get involved in some areas that were previously exclusive to men, like technology,” Morelo says.

Technological advances are transforming the media landscape and at the same time, “technology is crucial to start thinking about the sustainability of the [media] business.” The lack of access to technology is a reality that undermines women’s chances to access high executive roles.

Communicational challenges are another important obstacle inside companies. In most media companies, the flow of communication at top management level tends to remain within a closed circle composed generally only by men. This proves to be a huge limitation for the few women in hierarchically similar positions, which can also affect their professional development.

“Men sometimes have a relationship resembling a “men’s club.” Women have to find ways to infiltrate into this circle. But we need to transform this club into a professionals’ club. We need to find a new way to communicate, even informally. To participate in such a way that women stop feeling like intruders.”

Access inequality to top-level positions in the journalistic industry, plus the gender-based pay gap in most of the continent, undoubtedly represents an enormous challenge for equality and freedom as core principles that should characterize democratic societies. Moreover, they are a challenge for the business itself.

A 2016 report by Women in News, WAN-IFRA’s international pioneer program devoted to promote women leadership in news industries worldwide, found that a correlation exists between diversity in leadership and a company’s financial success.

Case studies from 89 European companies revealed that the more women there are in both executive positions and managerial boards, the higher the return on equity, the company’s EBITDA (operating results) and the growth of stock prices are. There’s also an improvement in the quality of journalistic content and a broader diversity in sources. A correlation exists between diversity in leadership and a company’s financial success.

Andiara Petterle suggests that women empowerment and leadership initiatives become imperative when trying to produce a change towards greater equality between men and women, in terms of access to executive positions and wage conditions, mostly if one takes into account the current state of the journalism industry. Petterle is the SVP of Product Development and Operation in Grupo RBS, South Brazil’s main media consortium. She will also be a speaker at the Women in News Summit from 6 to 8 June during WAN-IFRA’s 2018 World News Media Congress.

 

“In times of crisis in our industry, having more women perform high managerial positions means more eyes watching how we are going to play and what decisions we are going to make, and whether these are successful or not,” Ginna Morelo points out.

Women to Watch recognitions are a good example of meaningful empowerment initiatives. This global platform for female leaders in communication and marketing roles seeks to inspire and motivate women in similar roles worldwide. Petterle was a recipient in 2017 and is currently trying to replicate this model inside Grupo RBS by promoting the creation of groups for minorities inside the company so their voices can be represented and heard. 

In addition to managerial obstacles, editorial challenges within newsrooms also exist; either through their journalistic practices or through editorial top-level decision-making.

Mónica Almeida, Editor-in-Chief of Quito’s Regional Office and Founder of the Research Unit at El Universo, one of Ecuador most important newspapers, mentions that on a daily basis, an unconscious discrimination takes place in media companies through the linguistic terms and styles they employ in general news coverage. For instance, this happens by the simple fact that women are mentioned by their first given name whereas men are mentioned by their family name. Almeida constantly tries to keep an eye for these type details in El Universo’s coverage.  

 

As Ginna Morelo points out, often it is difficult for women to follow certain subjects and to affect the company’s editorial policies. Some subject lines are considered to be delicate.

Morelo affirms that women in editorial positions tend to incline towards “plural agendas,” trying to shift “their focus towards social issues, towards that which interests common citizens. We tend to turn our backs to traditional subjects like corruption or politics,” she explains. It is never easy.

According to Almeida, “to include feminism or social subjects into editorial policies might become a challenge because society can perceive it as something radical and, on behalf on the media company, it is hard to speak about those topics without being judged.”

To confront these obstacles, Morelo suggests inclusion measures that invite civil society’s sectors or organizations that are outsiders from the media company, to define the topics to cover: “we need to open the discussion in newsrooms to different groups to incorporate people who are not necessarily journalists, to editorial decisions so they can bring more and better perspectives about certain topics.”

In this sense, Consejo de Redacción came up with an exercise called Con Enfoque, which incorporated various representatives from organizations such as the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the Swedish government to the editorial board. They suggested special focus on stories with gender perspectives, whereas Consejo’s journalists stuck to reporting and chasing such stories.

“It’s changing the way we embrace these topics and giving more participation in newsrooms to civilians who play other leadership roles in society. I believe we can find key concepts to study here. Common pitches are abundant when we speak about gender topics and information gaps come to light,” Morelo affirms.

Our four interviewees agree that while Latin America has witnessed a great advance in gender equality topics, there is still a long way to go in order for women to be as represented and as incorporated to the media industry and content production as men.

 A key aspect for change will always be the will to promote it internally in the companies.

“Respect and equality need to be genuine and domestic. Unfortunately, this does not happen in all media companies. To talk about equality and respect on the outside when they are missing on the inside, does not make any sense to me,” Amorim concludes.

By Andrea Rodríguez and Daniela Peña

Author

Daniela Pena's picture

Daniela Pena

Date

2018-03-13 18:48

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The World Editors Forum is the organisation within the World Association of Newspapers devoted to newspaper editors worldwide. The Editors Weblog (www.editorsweblog.org), launched in January 2004, is a WEF initiative designed to facilitate the diffusion of information relevant to newspapers and their editors.


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