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Women in News Summit reveals big challenges to overcome

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World News Publishing Focus
Your Guide to the Changing Media Landscape

Women in News Summit reveals big challenges to overcome

Sexual advances, deciding whether to wear heels or flats, juggling household demands, and finding that inner superwoman – female journalists said that a male-dominated media industry has left them fighting harder.

Gathered at the Women in News Summit at WAN-IFRA's World News Media Congress in Durban, female journalists and editors from around the world shared their experiences as leading figures in the media – from having to battle to be considered equal to their male counterparts to juggling family life and being a professional.

Finding a balance between work and family life

Chair of the South African National Editors Forum (Sanef), Mahlatse Gallens, who is also the political editor for News24, said working as a journalist and being female came with many pitfalls.

“I’ve had politicians who have hit on me, they feel it’s okay to talk about my physical attributes openly, and are not even shy to tell me to wear a dress with no stockings when I come to interview them," she said.

"Apart from that, you still get people who think women cannot be a boss, or are too young to carry out the job. When female staff members become passionate about a discussion and want to air their opinion, they were called emotional. We really need some super powers to be the mother, wife and journalist always on call and monitoring what’s happening in case we miss something that’s news. I wish I knew how to be that superwoman.”

She said she wished she had set more parameters in her earlier days as a journalist.

“I wish I found the balance earlier. Journalists need family time like any other person, moreso to provide that support in dealing with a demanding career. They need their weekends and need to be with their children as well,” she said.

Former editor of the Huffington Post South Africa, Verashni Pillay, shared her story of why she resigned when a controversial blog passed through the checks and balances of the company, landing them in hot water.

She added that as a female there was the misconception that “hard work equated to long hours”.

“In fact, I have seen women who return from maternity leave come to the office with more focus, because they concentrate on the work that needs to be done, so that they can leave the office at a good time to be with their children. In fact, they are more productive,” said Pillay.

Helje Solberg, CEO of VGTV in Norway, said she faced a dilemma when returning to work after a year on maternity leave.

“I love being a journalist but I also needed to take care of my baby. They wanted me back in the political department and I told them yes, but on the condition that I could leave at 2pm twice a week. And I got it,” she said.

The need for a strong support network

Kjersti Løken Stavrum, CEO of Tinius Trust in Norway, said it was important to have a supportive family when working in the media industry.

“I worked long hours and in fact I was not able to help my children with their homework. Thankfully, they did well, but this is what happens in the industry,” she said.

Jordan’s Jumana Ghunaimat, chief editor at Al Ghad paper, said she had to explain to her children that she was “not like the other mums”.

“I explained to them that I am different, that their mum travels and does not work at home but in an office. And thankfully, they understood,” she said, adding that when she was appointed to her position, the newsroom did not know how to react.

“I was the first editor in chief for an Arabic paper. I heard people ask “how could we deal with her”. It’s tough to be a journalist in the Middle East, never mind being a female one,” she said.

Report by Arthi Gopi, Journalist, Independent on Saturday


In the first video below, Pamella Sittoni, this year’s recipient of the Women in News Editorial Leadership Sub-Saharan Africa Award, describes what the award means to her and relates some of the challenges facing women in newsrooms in Africa. She is Editor of the International Desk for the Nation Media Group and Managing Editor for The East African, a weekly circulated in Rwanda, Uganda, Tanzania and Kenya.

In the second video, Mahlatse Gallens, Chairperson of Sanef, the South African National Editors' Forum, describes problems of racism and sexism that women journalists face.

In the third video, Jumana Ghunaimat, editor-in-chief of Al Ghad newspaper in Jordan, describes the challenges of becoming the first female editor of a major Arabic newspaper.

See video
See video
See video


WAN-IFRA External Contributor


2017-06-07 23:22

Author information

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

The 71st World News Media Congress, the 26th World Editors Forum and the 3rd Women in News Summit took place from 1 - 3 June 2019 in Glasgow, Scotland.

In this blog, WAN-IFRA provides previews, interviews, summaries of the presentations and other useful information about the Congress.

Participants were also very active on Twitter throughout the event under the hashtag #wnmc19.

© 2020 WAN-IFRA - World Association of News Publishers

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