SEXUAL HARASSMENT IN THE MEDIA
Women in News is a media development programme of the World Association of News Publishers (WAN-IFRA). Its mission is to close the gender gap in news media.
It works with 80 media organisations from 15 countries in Africa, the Middle East and Southeast Asia thanks to support from the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA) and the
Norwegian Ministry of Foreign
Alliance de la Presse d’Information Générale 69 Rue du Chevaleret 75013 Paris, France
Tel: +33.6.8792 1725
EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR MEDIA DEVELOPMENT
WOMEN IN NEWS DIRECTOR FOR AFRICA
City, University of London Northampton Square London EC1V 0HB
Dr Lindsey Blumell, City, University of London
DIGITAL AND VISUAL IDENTITY LEAD
GRAPHICS, DATA and DESIGN
In 2020, WAN-IFRA Women in News (WIN), in partnership with City, University of London, set out to establish the extent of sexual harassment in news organisations and to gauge their effectiveness in managing it.
The research project focused on regions where WIN operates: Africa, the Arab region, Southeast Asia and Russia. In addition, a survey of Central America will begin soon.
This report is a summary of its findings in Africa.
The project included an online survey and interviews. Some 584 media professionals completed the online survey. They were from eight countries in Africa, namely Botswana, Malawi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe. The overall tally includes eight responses from within Africa that were outside the focus countries.
WIN conducted supplementary interviews with 32 media executives from those countries.
• Almost half of women respondents had been sexually harassed at work (47%).
• Women were twice as likely to experience sexual harassment at work than men.
• For one in two women, the harassment was verbal (56%), and for one in three, it was physical (38%).
• Only 30% of cases of sexual harassment were ever reported to management.
• Fear of reprisals is the most common driver behind non-reporting. But lack of faith in the organisation’s management and awareness of reporting systems also plays a part.
• When they did receive formal complaints, news organisations took action in 42% of cases.
• Persons in authority are the perpetrators of sexual harassment in four out of ten cases, either as a direct supervisor (21.5%) or person from higher management (19.5%).
• Sexual harassment is often taking place openly: 46% had witnessed at least one incident, with 16.5% stating they had seen five or more cases.
• Non-conforming individuals experienced sexual harassment almost as often as women. One in two (50%)
had been verbally harassed, and 36% had been physically harassed.
• Of the 32 managers interviewed, more than half had been sexually harassed. Only three reported this.
• Some 47% said their organisations had no sexual harassment policy, and then, of those where a policy existed, just 17% knew its contents.
Results at a glance
1 In 2 30
women have faced verbal
or physical sexual harassment at work.
The media industry in Africa has a sexual harassment problem, but to date, there has been a lack of credible data and research to guide interventions.
When the #MeToo movement against sexual violence and abuse took off globally in 2017, it triggered new research into the prevalence of sexual harassment in media. But much of the inquiry focused on the West, with almost no attention on the Global South and
the countries where WIN operates. Indeed the only studies of any relevance remained a small survey of 119 women in media in sub-Saharan Africa and the Arab region conducted by WIN in 2017 and a City, University of London study, published in 2020, which looked at news personnel in Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa. Both studies have since yielded academic country-focused reports. However, WIN committed to exploring the issue further to bring greater regional and cultural diversity to the global conversation on sexual harassment.
Data is a benchmark for measuring change. It enables assessment of the impact of initiatives to improve the management of sexual harassment and, ultimately, newsroom safety, factors that directly impact equality.
WIN’s work in Africa and beyond requires data to drive its projects. These aim to build a more equitable and sustainable news media industry by developing current and future women media leaders. WIN provides support and resources to organisations
to reduce the incidents of sexual harassment and manage incidents when they occur.
WIN has been engaging with journalists and media managers on sexual harassment for more than ten years. During that time, we have collected plenty of anecdotal evidence of sexual harassment. But this is the first time we have been able to draw on large- scale data to support the belief that it is prevalent everywhere and is a significant impediment to a healthy media industry, regardless of country or context.
The results from our Africa research reported here, the first of the four regions we included in our research, provide the evidence to back that up.
The report will also contribute to a better understanding of the similarities and differences facing media in the Global South. A composite report that also considers trends from the Global North will follow the release of all other regional survey results.
Sexual harassment is a global societal problem, and WIN views it as such. Evidence from this research shows that the culture of sexual harassment needs to change regardless of country. Our mission is to
advance and establish stable media environments that embrace equality in content and in the way people are treated, regardless of gender. This cannot be achieved if sexual harassment of any kind is tolerated. As such, we remain committed to work with media to eradicate harassment of any kind.
This project employed two methods for data collection: a survey of media personnel, distributed online, and in-depth interviews with media executives conducted online through video calls. The two-method approach was designed to understand patterns
of sexual harassment in newsrooms, and guage perceptions from officers with positions of power within media organisations.
The survey responses were anonymous and interview participants were assigned a pseudonym to protect their identity.
Data collection began July 2020 in Botswana, Kenya, Malawi, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe, and ended November 2020. Surveys and in-depth interviews were conducted remotely to
comply with COVID-19 regulations. All data collection was in English. After the initial filter questions, 635 participants began the survey with 584 completing.
The survey took an average of 19 minutes to complete.
In total, 32 in-depth interviews were conducted with managers and executives from various media organisations. Interviewees were identified from
media organisations that WAN-IFRA Women In News has engaged in different capacities (either through capacity building or advocacy) and executives from media organisations that were willing to engage in the discussion on sexual harassment (regardless of an existing relationship or not). The average interview lasted 40 minutes.
DEFINITIONS, LANGUAGE AND SAMPLE SIZE
WIN is aware that the language around gender and sexuality continues to evolve rapidly, as it did while this report was being written. The refinement of words and their definitions is based on our understanding
of how complex constructs related to sexuality and gender evolve.
In the research, participants were invited to select their identity as Woman, Man or Gender Nonconforming.
The number of respondents who identified as nonconforming was small. This should not mean their experiences are diminished. However, from a statistical perspective it poses a challenge as it is difficult to find significant relationships from the
data. Statistical tests normally require a larger sample size to ensure a representative distribution of the population and to be considered representative of
groups of people to whom results will be generalized or transferred. It was therefore important to put this into consideration. The data however shows that experiences of sexual harassment cannot be ignored for any group. Therefore, while the numbers are small, we recognize this fact.
WIN acknowledges the profound diversity with respect to size, development level, political, legal and economic system, geography, culture and history that exists within individual countries. This is why, for this phase of the research, we have focused on regional patterns on sexual harassment experiences and while providing a country-by-country breakdown of data, have avoided comparative analysis.
WIN defines sexual harassment as unwanted and offensive behaviour, of a sexual nature, that violates a person’s dignity and makes them feel degraded, humiliated, intimidated or threatened.
Women are two times more likely to experience sexual harassment than men.
The first set of questions asked participants their experience of verbal and physical sexual harassment on a scale from never to five or more times.
For men, 24% of participants indicated they had experienced verbal sexual harassment at least once at work, and 15% experienced physical sexual harassment at least once.
For women, 56% of participants responded they had experienced verbal sexual harassment at least once—31% five times or more, and 38% stated they
had experienced physical sexual harassment at least
once—12% five times or more.
Gender non-conforming participants experienced verbal sexual harassment at a rate of 50% and physical sexual harassment at 36%.
REPORTING AND ACTION
On average, only 30% of cases were reported to the participant’s respective media news organisation. Of those reported cases, news organisations took action 42% of the time.
The top reasons listed for not reporting were being afraid reporting would negatively impact the participant’s job (16.94%), no known reporting mechanism available (14.82%), and not wanting to be negatively labelled (11.35%).
The most common responses of organisations when they took action was warning the perpetrator (41%), offering emotional support for the participant (12.7%), dismissing the case after review (12.5%), and providing training for staff about sexual harassment (9%).
SOURCE, FREQUENCY, MEDIUM
The most common source of sexual harassment was a fellow employee (38%), followed by a direct supervisor (21.5%), higher management (19.5%), and external news sources (17.40%).
Participants were asked if they had ever witnessed sexual harassment in the office. Some 46.12% of participants had seen at least one incident of sexual harassment with 16.5% stating they had seen five or more incidents.
We asked: do staff feel safe in the newsroom and able
to talk openly to their supervisor? For men, 59% agreed
For women, 54% agreed – somewhat to strongly – they could openly talk to their supervisor, 66% agreed – somewhat to strongly -agreed they felt listened to at work, and 69% somewhat to strongly agreed they felt safe in their newsroom.
To understand management perspectives on the prevalence of sexual harassment, WIN interviewed 32 executives from the sampled countries. The 16 women and 16 men interviewed held ranks from news editor to country director. The participants represented radio, print, television, and digital media.
Because of the relatively small sample of managers in each country, the findings are considered separately. Some individual responses are included below because they provide insight into attitudes and the scale of the challenge. All data was anonymised, so pseudonyms are used.
Firstly, the media organisation executives were asked about their personal experiences of sexual
harassment. More than half, 14 women and three men had been verbally or physically harassed. Only three had reported this.
When asked if sexual harassment is an issue in the media industry, 17 executives responded yes, two stated previously but not now, and 13 said no.
Is sexual harassment a problem in the media industry?
“If it were, I would have known. But as far as I’m concerned, we don’t have anything of that sort here.” – Martin, Botswana
“From what I’ve heard from other people that have been in other newsrooms, it’s actually real. It’s something that’s very common in the newsroom. I feel like it’s not a newsroom if there’s no sexual harassment.” – Lilian, Zimbabwe
Next, media executives were asked if any of their employees had reported cases of sexual harassment to them. Half had, half had not.
“I’ve never met anyone who has ever mentioned sexual harassment. I think they hide. Because you sort
of feel ashamed. You don’t want to share with anyone. When I was
verbally abused, I never told any of my friends. – Melissa, Zambia
Asked how they responded when incidents were reported, four media executives warned the accused, nine reported the case to human resources, and three took action by directly suspending the accused.
On organisational support
“Women get little organisational
leaving the industry – they go to the corporate world and get into public relations for peace of mind. Or they opt for organisations where they will not be in close conversations with the male folk.” – Winifred, Kenya
All media executives were asked to list the barriers in the media industry for reporting sexual harassment. While nine felt there were no barriers, 16 said fear of repercussions, four cited lack of evidence, and three felt societal cultures were a factor.
Just over half of the executives we spoke to (17) believed their employees felt comfortable to report experienced sexual harassment to their media organisation. Eight said maybe, while the remaining seven answered no.
On organisational barriers to reporting
“I think it’s about repercussions. I think it’s more of ‘what’s the worst thing that can happen if I report?’ So, depending on how senior or how popular the person (perpetrator) is, I think they will probably think twice.”
“I have realised that sexual harassment is never an issue of priority. That’s why these behaviours still exist today. Please help so that we share such information with everybody. So that everybody can internalise it. It’s happening.” – Tabitha, Botswana
On the employer’s responsibility
“It is an individual thing. When you are abused, how do you react? There are some people who are very reactive and very quick and very sensitive. There are some who are
more tolerant not just to this matter but to general complaining or raising issues. But what I want to say is that as an employer, one should have the responsibility of encouraging people to come out and not in any way try to suppress that.” – Kevin, Zimbabwe
Almost 70%, or 22, of the executives were aware of a sexual harassment policy at their media organisation. Fifteen had been personally trained on the policy.
When asked if they were aware of how their policies had been enacted, there were eight warnings,
six dismissals and three suspensions in total. Furthermore, only one participant stated that sexual harassment is commonly discussed amongst senior management, while 12 stated rarely and 19 never.
Finally, media executives made suggestions for eliminating sexual harassment in the media industry. Most commonly, 17 participants suggested staff training, followed by eight who stated that women need to report, two thought better policies were necessary and two thought better pay for women would help.
On the need for change
“The overall newsroom environment needs to change in Kenya. One of the main reasons why women leave is because they feel unwelcome in the newsroom. It’s like a vicious cycle because you are in an environment where you are probably one woman among six men, so you already
feel threatened, unwelcome and can’t quite fit in that situation.
And sometimes it also comes with harassment and just basically being bullied.” – Priscilla, Kenya.
“It’s difficult for managers to respond. I don’t think I have anywhere where I can report sexual harassment. I don’t know what the remedy can be. But these are things that we need to change because if
it is so unfortunate that if I am in this position and feel like this, what about my juniors? How do they feel?”
The next section focuses on country by country findings.
• Women 87.1% (27) and men 12.9% (4)
• Gender of supervisor: Men 45.2% (14), Women 45.2% (14), other 3.2% (1), not applicable 6.5% (2)
• Sexual harassment policy: No 64.5%, yes, but not aware what it is 32.3%, yes, I am aware what it is 3.2%.
Botswana is the smallest of the countries surveyed, and its sample size reflects this. Of the four male participants, three experienced verbal sexual harassment and one physical sexual harassment. For women, 40% experienced verbal sexual harassment and 48% physical sexual harassment. Only 32% of participants chose to report, which resulted in action taken in 43% of cases. The most common reasons for not reporting included no reporting mechanisms available (42%) and fear of losing one’s job (10.8%).
Sexual harassment has become part of the culture, not just in newsrooms but in corporate culture in general. Male colleagues feel like they are the good faith possessor of their female colleagues’ bodies. At some point, one feels like they are living in the twilight zone where it’s like you are the one who thinks what is going on is wrong. Love affairs develop overnight as a result of sexual harassment. So when you don’t go along, you appear to be uptight and boring. I am uptight and boring.
We need to raise awareness and go beyond creating policies that are usually not fully implemented.
Sometimes editors ask women reporters to be nice to male sources, even when aware that they are making sexual advances.
• Women 74.7% (62), men 24.1% (20), and gender
non-conforming 1.2% (1)
• Gender of supervisor: Men 74.7% (62), and women 25.3% (21)
• Sexual harassment policy: No 37.3%, yes, but not aware what it is 43.4%, yes, I am aware what it is 19.3%
Eighty-three participants from Kenya completed the survey. Examining sexual harassment frequencies, for men 30% experienced verbal sexual harassment and 15% physical sexual harassment. For women, 79% experienced verbal sexual harassment (55% five times or more) and 51% physical sexual harassment. One participant identified as gender non-conforming and reported experiencing verbal and physical sexual
harassment one time. Only 29% chose to report, which resulted in action being taken in 54% of cases. The most common reasons for not reporting were being afraid it would negatively impact one’s job (17.25%) and no reporting mechanisms available (13.1%). Action taken by media organisations was limited; the most common response was warning the accused.
The challenge with reporting harassment in the newsroom as a woman is that the entire chain of command are men, and there are no clear structures on how to go about making such a complaint
I lost interest in the media industry because anytime I did not show interest to my editor, it was always a rough day for me. My stay there was hell.
When my only female colleague left for another media house last October, my editor told me to be assured of her position; I needed to warm his bed.
I quit after being harassed for ‘running to HR’. I felt so helpless and had no one to go to and ended up being demoted. I am still affected five years later.
• Women 52.9% (46), men 42.5% (37), and gender
non-conforming 4.6% (4)
• Gender of supervisor: Men 70.1% (61) and women 27.6% (24)
• Sexual harassment policy: No 38.4%, yes, but not aware what it is 44.2%, and yes, I am aware what it is 17.4%.
Eighty-seven participants from Malawi completed the survey. Examining sexual harassment frequencies,
for men 13.5% experienced verbal sexual harassment and 0% physical sexual harassment. For women, 57.8% had experienced verbal sexual harassment and 31% physical sexual harassment. Four participants identified as gender non-conforming who didn’t report experiencing sexual harassment. Only 23% chose to report, which Only 23% chose to report, which resulted in action taken in 43% of cases. The most common reasons for not reporting were no reporting mechanisms available (9.7%) and afraid it
would negatively impact one’s job (6.7%). Action taken by media organisations was limited and the most common response was warning the accused.
The newsroom is largely a boy’s club. Editorial management meetings are dominated by men who sometimes make uncomfortable sexual ‘jokes’ as if the women are not there. It leaves the few women feeling helpless.
Our organisation is gender-free. There is no discrimination, no difference between women and men during work. This shows that we have a well- structured organisation.
I feel uncomfortable when male bosses take out interns for a drive over weekends and or drinks after work. I think something wrong happens that we cannot quantify, and the girls may not disclose for fear of jeopardising their future job prospects.
• Women 57.3% (59), men 39.8% (41), and gender
non-conforming 2.9% (3)
• Gender of supervisor: Men 78.6% (81), women 14.6% (15), other 1.9% (2), not applicable 4.9% (5)
• Sexual harassment policy: No 39.8%, yes, but not aware what it is 36.9%, and yes, I am aware what it is 23.3%
A hundred and three participants from Rwanda completed the survey. Examining sexual harassment frequencies, for men 24% experienced verbal sexual harassment and 12.2% physical sexual harassment. For women, 40.7% experienced verbal sexual harassment and 32% physical sexual harassment. Three participants identified as gender non-conforming two of which experienced sexual harassment. Only 33.3% chose to report, which resulted in action taken in 40% of cases. The most common reasons for not reporting were afraid of losing one’s job (6.2%) and afraid it would negatively impact one’s job (5.2%). Action taken by media news organisations was limited and the most common response was warning the accused.
Editors and program managers always seem to want to have sex with other female colleagues and me. We lose opportunities and get punished because we don’t give them what they want, forcing us to leave.
The policy must be clear and give the same attention to men as is given to women. Sexual harassment happens to men too.
The sexual harassment policy in my workplace has done a great deal to curb sexual harassment. Every newsroom should implement it.
I am not alone in our organisation. We are harassed and afraid to denounce the perpetrators for fear of losing our jobs! Some of us accept it just to keep our positions!
• Women 84.4% (76), Men 14.4% (13), and gender
non-conforming 1.1% (1).
• Gender of supervisor: Men 65.6% (59), women 31.1% (28), other NC 0.0% (0), not applicable 3.3% (3).
• Sexual harassment policy: No 58.9%, yes, but not aware what it is 25.6%, and yes, I am aware what it is 15.6%.
Ninety participants from Tanzania completed the survey. Examining sexual harassment frequencies, for men 15.4% experienced verbal sexual harassment and 24% physical sexual harassment. For women, 47% experienced verbal sexual harassment and 38%
physical sexual harassment. One participant identified as gender non-conforming who reported experiencing sexual harassment one time. Only 28% chose to report, which resulted in action in 50% of cases. The most common reasons for not reporting were no reporting mechanisms available (9.7%) and being afraid it would negatively impact one’s job (6.7%). Action taken by media organisations was limited, the most common response was warning the accused.
Too often, this seems normal. All must know and understand it is not.
Most women in the newsroom are given assignments or trips in exchange for something. Most sexual harassment involves top leaders in the organisation.
Editors, especially men, harass women reporters, asking for sex to publish their stories.
This challenge is big – women, especially girls in our newsroom, have been treated like a commodity. No sex, no good position. You won’t get recognised unless you ‘belong’ to some managers.
• Women 69.1% (38) and Men 30.9% (17)
• Gender of supervisor: Men 69.1% (38), women 29.1% (16), other 0.0% (0), and not applicable 1.8% (1)
• Sexual harassment policy: No 40.0%, yes, but not aware what it is 38.2%, and yes, I am aware what it is 21.8%
Fifty-five participants from Uganda completed the survey. Examining sexual harassment frequencies, for men 29% experienced verbal sexual harassment and 29% physical sexual harassment. For women, 63.1% experienced verbal sexual harassment and 52.6% physical sexual harassment. No participants identified as gender non-conforming. Only 12% chose to report, which resulted in action in 40% of cases. The most common reasons for not reporting were afraid it would negatively impact one’s job (14.1%), I didn’t think I had evidence (12.7%), and not wanting to be negatively labelled (11.7%). Action taken by media organisations was limited, the most common response was warning the accused.
I have had uncomfortable cases of some bosses touching me, forcing me to hug them, but reporting would not solve anything. I tell them off, and I distance myself from them.
Men editors want to take advantage of female journalists by forcing them into sex from their offices.
Some men touch your behind as you pass and make funny comments about your weight. One kissed my neck as a greeting while colleagues cheered and clapped. I am a supervisor.I warned the gentleman, but reporting him could have meant losing his job, so I let it go.
Sexual harassment is becoming a tired topic. Challenges in the newsroom today are low salaries, access to technology, training, education and a decent work environment.
• Women 69.1% (47), men 25% (17), and gender
non-conforming 5.9% (4)
• Gender of supervisor: Men 70.4% (50), women 26.8% (19), and not applicable 2.8% (2)
• Sexual harassment policy: No 61.8%, yes, but not aware what it is 29.4%, yes, I am aware what it is 8.8%
Sixty-eight participants from Zambia completed the survey. Examining sexual harassment frequencies, for men 5.9% experienced verbal sexual harassment and 3.5% physical sexual harassment. For women, 66% experienced verbal sexual harassment and 30% physical sexual harassment. Four participants identified as gender non-conforming, two of which reported experiencing sexual harassment. Only 27% chose to report, which resulted in action in 27% of cases. The most common reasons for not reporting were afraid it would negatively impact one’s job (15.4%), afraid of being negatively labelled (10.5%),
and no reporting mechanisms available (8.8%). Action taken by media organisations was limited, the most common response was training by the organisation.
Women who make it big are considered to have had sexual relationships with male supervisors. Editors usually want sexual favours if they assign a female journalist to a big event.
Women journalists tend to fall prey to sources because of the media salaries and payments in my country.
A senior government official offered me a lift to the office after an assignment. Instead of dropping me at the office first, he directed his driver to take him to his office instead. During the ride, he kept passing comments about my appearance. When we arrived at his office, he asked me to accompany him in the building even though it was a Sunday. I declined. He was irate, got out of the car and instructed his driver to take me to my office. He never spoke to me again.
• Women 83.1% (49), Men 15.3% (9), and gender
non-conforming 1.7% (1)
• Gender of supervisor: Men 80.0% (48) and women 20.0% (12)
• Sexual harassment policy: No 42.4%, yes, but not aware what it is 35.6%, yes, I am aware what it is 22.0%
Fifty-nine participants from Zimbabwe completed the
survey. Examining sexual harassment frequencies, for men 5.6% experienced verbal sexual harassment and 0% physical sexual harassment. For women, 41% experienced verbal sexual harassment and 29%
physical sexual harassment. One participant identified as gender non-conforming who reported experiencing sexual harassment once. Just over half chose to report (56%), which resulted in action in 42% of cases. The most common reasons for not reporting were no reporting mechanisms available (9.6%), not knowing how to report (8.4%), and being afraid it would negatively impact one’s job (6.4%). Action taken by media organisations was limited, the most common response was warning the accused.
I was sexually harassed in one organisation and stood up to my perpetrator.
I left eventually for other reasons. When a new position arose in that organisation, I sought to return and made it to the interview but was turned down as a troublemaker because I call out sexual harassment.
Of the cases that I heard of, but not witnessed in our newsroom, the victim is most often not believed. I am yet to see a person who has been reprimanded or fired for such. This perpetuates harassment in the newsroom.
I was a junior reporter when the Editor-in-Chief told me that he wanted to have a sexual relationship. He gave me 10 hours to give him a response. I didn’t go to work for two weeks because I was afraid of his reaction if I said no. I eventually told one of the line editors, who then confronted him.
7 win resources
CLICK HERE TO
VISIT WIN’S SEXUAL HARASSMENT
or visit this link: sexualharassment.womeninnews.org/en/resources/ sexual_harassment_toolkit_win
THE TOOLKIT INCLUDES:
• Practical guide for employers and employees
• Awareness poster (A2) to put up in newsrooms and offices
• Sample sexual harassment policy
• Sample sexual harassment survey
• Sample communications templates
• Sample for interviews during an investigation
• Sample for feedback on a decision
• Informal complaints procedures
• Formal complaints procedures