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Include women in senior media positions, media owners told

In Summary

• Discouraging cultural practices edging women from newsrooms and the journalism career

• Mentorship encouraged to grow

Catherine Gicheru of Code For Africa, veteran journalist Joe Odindo, Standard Group Women Network president Queenter Mbori, Alex Awiti, the vice provost and interim dean of Aga Khan University Graduate School of Media and Communications, executive editor of Daily Nation Pamela Sittoni, Joanne Kobuthi of Amnesty International and Dr Nancy Booker, director of academic affairs at Agakhan University Graduate School of media and Communications
Catherine Gicheru of Code For Africa, veteran journalist Joe Odindo, Standard Group Women Network president Queenter Mbori, Alex Awiti, the vice provost and interim dean of Aga Khan University Graduate School of Media and Communications, executive editor of Daily Nation Pamela Sittoni, Joanne Kobuthi of Amnesty International and Dr Nancy Booker, director of academic affairs at Agakhan University Graduate School of media and Communications
Image: COURTESY

A myriad of practices in newsrooms, including sexual harassment, have inhibited female journalists from rising in the journalism profession, a forum has said.

The roundtable held on Thursday titled Women in Media Leadership: Breaking the Glass Ceiling, heard that female journalists have suffered discouragements while in the course of their jobs.

They include being surpassed for promotions when new opportunities arise, lack of empathy for new mothers, no mentorship by fellow women in the career, hence exhaustion and loneliness in the course of duty.

 

These and more have pushed many female journalists out of the career, while better salary offers in the NGO world and public relations have become a softer landing pad while continually exhausting the newsroom of quality journalism.

However, the elephant in the room, sexual harassment, was named as a major problem in the newsroom, which in spite of well-designed human resource policies, is still rife, with offenders most times walk scot free.

The panel, moderated by Alex Awiti, the vice provost and interim dean of Aga Khan University Graduate School of Media and Communications, hosted executive editor of Daily Nation Pamela Sittoni, Catherine Gicheru of Code For Africa, veteran journalist Joe Odindo, Standard Group Women Network president Queenter Mbori and Joanne Kobuthi of Amnesty International.

“As founding editor at the Star, I ensured that more women were employed in the newsroom, and this changed many things,” Catherine Gicheru told the forum. During her tenure, she ensured more women rose to editorial leadership positions, a trend that has continued in The Star to date, she said.

She recommended that young female journalists get mentorship from fellow women who they meet in the profession, to encourage them in the tough profession, Gicheru added.

Pamela Sittoni of Daily Nation recalled better memories in her 26 years in the profession, although there were fewer women in the newsroom back then.

“We lacked female mentors, so we navigated the profession on our own,” she said.

 

But Joe Odindo, immediate former editorial director of Standard Group, blamed historical and cultural factors that are patriarchal, and have dictated the nature of newsrooms, making them hostile to women professionals.

“Journalism was dominated by those who were seen as failures, who did not have university degrees,” Odindo told the forum.

But it came to a time the company had to deliberately come up with policies that gave female journalists a chance to work in the newsroom, he said, adding that a silent revolution is happening in newsrooms, as digital transformation opens more opportunities for female journalists. The problem still remains that even in these digital positions, the bosses are dominated by the male gender, the forum heard.

Joanne Kobuthi, who once worked in the newsroom, said it is important for women who have risen to decision-making positions support their fellow women, instead of trying to look like the men who are now their peers at the top.

Standard Group has come up with forums that empowers women journalists and help them deal with challenges in the profession. Queenter heads the network.