According to Dr. Kafiris (2004) gender can be said to refer to “different cultural and social traits that are widely but deceptively thought to be inherent to each sex as a result of natural or reproductive difference”. Women have been the victims of gender discrimination for a very long time. This is according to studies which have indicated that women are discriminated against on the basis of their gender because traits of the female gender are considered to be inferior to those of the male gender. Gender disparity is a common phenomenon in places of work where a certain gender is discriminated against for instance by being given low wages for the same amount of work and quality, not promoted to higher positions despite possessing the required qualification as their counterparts in the opposite sex and limited opportunities for equal career advancement (Kafiris 2006).
For the past 50 years mass media industry has been experiencing an exponential growth both in terms of technology and in size. Initially there was a telelegraph, and then came radio, newspapers and magazines and later television and the current most popular form of mass media which is the internet. Because we are living in a much more advanced and complicated society, our dependence on information and communication is indispensable in making sure that we are always moving in the right direction by doing the right things. Studies further suggest most of the decisions we make especially at workplaces are to a very great extent molded and determined by the information we get from the mass media sources (Kafiris 2006).
Gender equality has been one of the major themes that have been portrayed in mass media outlets especially in television programs. Women have always been treated as inferior as compared to the male counterparts at different levels of social organization. This happens in every society not excluding developed countries like the US. According to researches carried out, it has been found out that social organization in every society is gendered. This is supported by the fact that women have been placed on an inferior position regarding societal economy and that women are perceived to only play a subordinate role in running various institutions in our societies. Also studies have suggested women and men have not been rewarded equally especially at workplaces (Kafiris 2006). The paper tries to look with insight the role the media plays in promoting equality in the society especially in the places of work.
How gender inequality at workplaces operates and significance of the mass media
Gender inequality is used to refer to unfair treatment of members of a given gender at places where they are employed. This kind of treatment can also be referred to as gender discrimination. Gender inequality is an issue that can affect both men and women in the society but reaches indicate that women are the worst affected and that men are rarely victimized on the basis of their gender. (Eisenstein 2006).
Eitzen (2006) tries to bring out three main factors that contributed to women’s inferior position in the labor force. The first factor is socialization. Eitzen thinks that women are victims of the socialization process that all along has been domineered by male characters. So the socialization process brands them as inferior beings who should work under the guidance of the male counterparts. The second factor that might have contributed to inequality at work place as explained by Eitzen is low aspiration nature of women. He perceives women to have low aspirations than the male counterparts. According to him, women are less aggressive and less motivated when it comes to pursuing goals at work place. This is one of the reasons that might have created a gap for males to overtake women at workplaces and take domineering roles. Some researchers have disputed this because they think women all along have been beings of high aspirations and have always been aggressive and motivated in achieving their goals (Zoonen 2008). The third factor given by Eitzen that might have contributed to inequality at workplaces is that they are committed less to work than to look after their families. Women have always been overburdened by the responsibility of looking after families for instance looking after the kids, cooking and other house chores. On the other hand men are left free with not many obstacles that come on their way in the process of advancing their careers. Many experts agree with this, because they think that the roles of women as prescribed by the society have created inadequate space for them to advance in their careers and to hold more senior and challenging positions at workplaces because their time is always shared between looking after their families and carrying out work duties (Zoonen 2008).
We are currently living in a generation where the mass media is part of us. The media serves as a tool in manipulating our minds and our thinking. Therefore when positive images on both sexes and programs that are tailored to promote gender equity are broadcasted through the mass media, they are going to have a huge impact by remolding our thinking. On the other hand this can also be disastrous because some can resort to use the media in promoting gender disparity by propagating stereotyping images on gender something that experts argue is going to make gender equality in the society especially in the labor difficult to realize (Adorno 2004).
It is an agreed fact that the media serves as a major tool in propagating messages that the influence perception of the society regarding men and women at all levels. The media has to a great extent been responsible in molding the manner in which both genders make contribution to social-economic development. The current generation is very sensitive to dominant cultural roles that are propagated through the new information and technology in a captivating manner (Eisenstein 2006).Experts have argued that although this stimulates curiosity and creativity, it is also likely to lead to mere imitation and encumber critical thinking. If this happens, gender equality especially in the labor force is likely to experience a major setback in the current generation more than even in the old generation. Therefore the media will play an invaluable role in enabling the current generation to put in place new models in the society on gender equality that are based on true and equal partnership and that are founded on the principle of mutual respect for both boys and girls. The media will be vital in providing these models that will enable young boys and girls to recognize each other objectively. This will ensure that the new generations treat both genders without any bias and that both genders are give equal opportunities in workplaces especially in promotions (Adorno 2004).
This requires that the information that is carried by mass media outlets should be attractive and should perfectly address pertinent issues within the social context. Therefore the mass media serves as an indispensable channel through which important information regarding gender equity in the society can be propagated. It is through the media that awareness on gender equity is created and possible strategies to remedy inequalities in the society especially in the labor force where it is perceived to be rampant. (Adorno 2004)
The role that the mass media plays in promoting gender equality
The mass media is a representation of the assumptions that a given society holds about gender. The mass media has contributed both negatively and positively in promoting gender equality. For instance studies indicate that since 1950s the way women have been portrayed in mass media especially magazines is increasingly becoming less monolithic. With the rise in feminism that created awareness in the society that women are not different in any way from the male counterparts especially in accomplishing various chores in the work places, many magazines have enhanced their attention in covering women’s achievements. This is something that is increasingly promoting their position and emphasizing the fact that women are capable of making immense achievement at workplaces just like the male counterparts if given the opportunity. This has helped to change the perception that many held regarding to women holding big positions in the places of work (Adorno 2004).
The mass media uses a wide variety of outlets such as radios, magazines, television, internet and other printed publications to reach wide variety of people in the society and consequently effect change within the society. Currently the society has started experiencing gender equality at workplaces because the mass media has been successful to a great extent in imparting knowledge, modify behavior and challenge long held attitudes especially against women in the workplaces (Blum 2005).
The role that mass media has played in promoting gender equality can also be seen in fictional representation of women in various television programs something that has always been transforming for the better. This has to a great extent succeeded in emphasizing gender equality both at the family level and at work level. This is seen especially in America where experts claim that these programs have played a critical role in remolding American families and now more women are joining paid labor force just like their male counterparts without many stumbling blocks on their way. Also television programs are increasingly giving workplaces a new portrayal by incorporating elements of gender equality and emphasizing health gender relations both at family and at work level (Archer 2006).
Creators of various programs in the media are increasingly making sure that programs that they broadcast look into issues of gender equality especially for programs that are meant for children. This is because children are made to believe what they see or hear in the media especially in televisions. Because of this, experts argue that any stereotyping images on gender that they get exposed to by the media are going to mold them on how they are going to relate with the opposite sex at workplaces in the future. Therefore gender representation in children media especially by ensuring fair representation of both genders without any stereotyping is indispensable in advancing gender equity and empowerment of both sexes in the labor force especially women who have been subdued for a long time (Archer 2006). Also most elements of mass media for instance videos, audiovisuals, slide shows and films are invaluable in creating awareness, communication and organization. Therefore the interface between gender equality movements with the current new communication technologies creates opportunities for a powerful explosion of movement and expression that experts argue is going to bring about radical transformations in perception on gender roles in the society especially in the workplaces (Mitra 2007).
The media has played a critical role in promoting gender equality in the labor force for instance by persistently covering women’s struggle and success in the workplace by using their images and voices especially during post 1985 period. Therefore the media is increasingly making the society change perception that it had on gender roles especially in the labor force. Experts argue that these images and voices carried over the media are increasingly creating a new thinking in the society that both sexes are equal and have equal capacity to achieve success in their careers (Archer 2006).
The media is acting as a powerful device that has the capacity to bring about essential skills, education, social integration and the urge for change. These are basic elements required to steer changes from an informed perspective to ensure that gender equity is realized in the workplace and in the society at large. Many organizations promoting gender equality have started recognizing the media as an indispensable tool they can employ in presenting their agenda to the society for instance Beijing platform for action (BPA) has realized that the mass media is a critical device that can be employed in achieving gender equality in the work places and also in the society at large.
The mass media has been employed as a creative tool and a medium for promoting gender equity in the society especially at work places. Mass media has also been able to enhance understanding and mutual respect between opposite sexes both in private and public platforms. For instance some programs on televisions are intentionally intended to instigate changes in behavior and societal norms which have subdued the role of women at workplace. These programs raise public awareness on the significance of equality in the workplaces and at the same time encourage positive changes by both sexes without any conflict in meeting their career objective (Archer 2006).
Interventions by the media in enhancing gender equity in the work place is increasingly gaining effectiveness because the media can easily transform social norms and values that are even centuries old. Increasing positive messages on the value of gender equality are being carried over the media; something that has greatly helped the society in transforming the gender attitudes especially in the workplace. For instance through various programs broadcasted over television and radio and also through messages and stories carried over magazines, newspapers and the internet, the society is progressively breaking away from what used be a social norm that- some positions at work places are for masculine and that success is associated with masculinity. This is something that has always been giving women a low deal at workplaces but now through interventions by the media we have started seeing successful women at workplaces become recognized (Blum 2005).
Studies have suggested that campaigns through mass media have proven to be very successful in increasing knowledge on the significance of fostering gender equality at workplaces and also in fueling transformation in gender norms. This success is because most of these interventions by the media are developed first by understanding with great insight the behavior of its audiences after which they go ahead to create programs, messages or develop stories are high likely to transform or influence their way of thinking. For instance in Nicaragua a program called somos diffrentes, somos iguales which can be translated to mean: we are different, we are equal. This program was transmitted through television programs and radio talk shows that were broadcasted in Nicaragua, Central America states and even in the US. This program has played an indispensable role in transforming social roles and in uplifting women status at workplaces. This program has achieved immense success in empowering women who had been subdued for a long time. This program is also largely responsible for promoting women’s rights and in promoting gender equity especially at workplaces. According to an evaluation that was carried out on this program it was found out that it was highly correlated to positive transformations in attitude towards gender equity to those who were exposed to it (Campbell 2006).
The portrayal of women in the mass media went through radical transformation following the second wave of feminism that took place between the late sixties and early seventies. During this period women started gaining acknowledgement in the mass media. For instance, during this period images of single women living their own independent lives started being televised. During this period single women started appearing in various TV programs and even starred in several of these programs, something that helped women to uplift their ego which had been undermined for a long time and claim their rightful position in the labor force. During this second wave of feminism women portrayal of women in paid labor force increasingly started appearing in mass media especially television. This portrayal helped to spark transformation from the along held perception and beliefs that men are meant to have an upper hand in the labor force (Campbell 2006).
The mass media has served as the major tool that has brought about transformation in social attitudes and perception on gender disparities by creating awareness in the society on the importance of gender equity and in mobilizing the society towards meeting the desired changes. Mass media outlets in the world still have a lot to do in promoting gender equality in the labor force and in the society at large because media in some regions are yet to employ the aspect of gender equity in their coverage and some have even continued to portray negative images of women something that researchers say is compromising the creation of awareness on gender equality in the workplaces in most regions in the world. Despite this, studies suggest that in overall the media has to a great extent achieved success in mainstreaming gender in the society. For instance media houses are increasingly working towards removing stereotyping images of women something that researchers argue had a long been a major obstacle in achieving gender equity in the workplace. The media has increasingly continued to be the platform on which programs that are steered towards removing disparities and fostering gender equity at workplaces have operated. (Campbell 2006).
Some media especially those that have international coverage have continued to create opportunities and foster participation of both women and youth something that is going to fuel radical transformation on long held social norms, gender roles and perceptions surrounding gender equality. For instance, views of women and the youth are increasingly gaining audience in the media, something that experts say is going to help in leveling gender disparities especially in the workplaces and in ensuring that aspects of gender equity are integrated into the youth who will in turn form a major force in bringing about radical transformation on social norms and perceptions that are gender biased (Kafiris 2006).
Studies indicate that the mass media is increasingly becoming a crucial force that is driving the economic, political, cultural and social machinery in most places around the world where they act both as sources of entertainment and information. To emphasize the significance of the media in the society in addressing gender equality in workplaces, experts argue that the media is the only open platform where social, cultural and political issues are debated and discussed. The media plays an invaluable role in not only determining issues that will be considered to be of great significance and legitimate to the society but goes ahead to determine how the issues are defined and discussed. Therefore the media stand as the only viable instrument that if positively employed can influence radical change from traditional perceptions on gender roles in workplaces and in the society at large.
For instance by combining both news and entertainment, the media is able to disperse to its audiences many resources. These resources are in form of information, ideas, and ways of thinking, frameworks, assumptions, narratives, beliefs and values. The audiences actively and continuously employ these resources in understanding the world around them and their relationship with each other. These resources that are provided by the media are responsible in shaping our thinking and play a major role in bringing about social transformation. Therefore it can be argued that any positive image on gender equality in the labor force that is carried across the mass media is likely to create resources which will instill into the society new ways of thinking and consequently bring about social transformations especially in places that have all along presumed to be gender biased (Kafiris 2006).
With the introduction of new information technology, information is increasingly becoming more counterweight and that women should employ this opportunity to promote their image in the press especially on issues that have never been give attention and that they think are significant in helping them make appropriate advancement in career without obstacles just like the male counterparts and in the process promote gender equality in workplaces. Therefore in order to promote gender equality especially in workplaces, mass media outlets should come up with appropriate strategies that are designed to improve the image of both genders in the media and to promote in building of a society that is based on true partnership and mutual respect by both sexes (Mitra 2007).
Although it is an issue that has been neglected, the mass media through its programs such as entertainment and news provides many resources which we utilize in our thinking on gender and other related gender issues such as gender equality, what it means to be a man or woman, and gender roles both in the private and public makings. These resources also determine what the society will perceive to be normal, natural, desirable and acceptable. Therefore the mass media represents sites or spaces where gender issues can be discussed and debated. Consequently they play an indispensable role in determining how gender issues for instance in the labor force will be conceived in the political, social and cultural spheres in a given society. Therefore by providing these resources and spaces to the audience, scholars argue that the mass media shapes our thinking on gender issues. These resources and sites are based on the gender images and messages that are carried across the mass media (Press 2006).
Negative influence by the mass in promoting gender equality
Although the media can be claimed to have achieved a great degree of success in promoting and influencing gender equity at workplaces, a number of studies have indicated that the media has been its own stumbling block in effectively achieving this objective. For instance according to a number of studies that were carried out by the global media monitoring project (GMMP), it has been found out that women are not given an equal representation by media coverage in global news coverage as compared to men. Findings from these studies further suggest that those women are not making news on equal basis as men. For instance based on findings from its own studies GMMP argues that women are not portrayed as respectable beings with authority and who are experts in their careers as men are portrayed. This has acted as a negative force fueled by the media towards realizing gender equality in the society especially at workplaces because women make only a small fraction of the news covered globally by the media. These studies therefore suggest that the repressive gender stereotyping in the media still remains a challenge that women will find difficult to overcome especially for women who are working in competitive career fields that have been culturally perceived to be male dominated (Press 2006).
Studies indicate that the media in some places provide very limited and sometimes biased resources on gender issues something that experts argue has been responsible for biased conceptualization on gender equality issues especially in the labor force. For instance the media in some places portrays women as objects of desire and mothers. They are also portrayed as being who are less intelligent than their male counterparts. Based on the fact that the media is a very powerful tool that greatly influences how the society thinks about a given issue, these negative portrayal have made the society to continue with perceptions surrounding gender roles where both sexes are perceived not to be equal. This eventually finds its way in the labor force where women are not expected to hold challenging posts because they are perceived to be less intelligent (Press 2006).
Although the mass media can b e claimed to the force behind fueling radical transformations in the society regarding social norms and gender roles, it can also be one of the greatest obstacle that can prevent women from advancing especially in their careers. This is because the success of the mass media in creating awareness on the issues affecting women, entirely depend on the manner in which different media outlets carry information on women. For instance studies indicate that even currently, media outlets in many countries are still portraying women negatively something that experts say that has negatively affected women from advancing in their career because this continued stereotyping has made difficult for the society to realize gender equality at workplaces because people have been made to think that a woman is a weaker sex who should work under the supervision of a man (Press 2006).
Experts argue that by stereotyping women, the mass media outlets have continued to act as a major force promotes the old-fashioned image of women. Some experts argue this setback can be attributed by the fact that most mass media outlets are run by men, although women are increasingly becoming many in numbers, only few hold positions of responsibility which will put them in a position to incorporate their viewpoints on events. Therefore most events covered on women especially in the labor force are dominated by masculine viewpoints and opinions. This has been supported by studies that were carried out by UN which indicated that in Asia, Africa and Latin America women only represent less than a quarter of the total personnel working in mass media. This does not even get better in Europe where the studies indicated that women account for 32 to 36 of the personnel working in mass media outlets. Further studies by United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) have found out that out of 200 news papers that are in circulation in thirty countries, those which are headed by women are only seven. These studies further indicate that women only take a quarter of television time and that only a quarter of the television news is presented by women (Zoonen 2008)
Therefore it can be argued that the media still continue portray negative and stereotyping images and messages on gender. For instance studies indicate that most media do not portray a balanced gender image in most countries especially when covering their contribution to the society. Programs that are meant to level out or transform gender disparities and traditionally assigned gender roles are limited in the mass media (Zoonen 2008).
Why promoting gender equality in the workplace is important
Promoting gender equality over the mass media especially in the workplaces is indispensable in the global community. This is has been supported by the fact that messages run over the mass media greatly influence the way the society perceive gender roles and position at workplace. This will be of great value in instilling unpolluted new form of thinking to growing young boys and girls that: both sexes are equal and deserve equal treatment and respect especially when it come to executing duties at workplace (Press 2006).
Negative stereotyping of women at workplaces will not only affect how young girls view themselves but also how they are viewed by their male counterparts of the same age. Therefore positive and balanced portrayal of both sexes by the mass media will fuel a radical transformation from a long held perception and belief that women are weaker sexes and do not deserve equal treatment as men at workplaces. Therefore inequality issues affecting women for instance inequality in education and inequality at workplaces get good audience when addressed through the mass media platform gain a lot of audience and appropriate changes are instigated in the process (Press 2006).
Gender equality stands as a global challenge that we are yet to overcome especially in places of work. Gender equality in places of work is where both genders receive equal treatment without any gender being perceived to be superior to the other. Although gender inequality can affect both genders, women have been the ones on the receiving. In some places for instance women are not allowed to hold challenging posts in the labor force or in places of work because the norms and gender roles as prescribed by the society has made people to perceive the female gender as inferior and less intelligent.
Therefore radical transformations are required in the society to overthrow these long held perceptions on discriminating gender roles and norms in the society that have undermined any attempt to realize gender equality in the workplace. Since we are currently living in a generation where the media is part of us, the media stands to play an invaluable role in influencing change in social norms and perceptions. Researchers have argued that since the media acts as a very powerful tool in manipulating our minds and our thinking, the positive gender images and messages that will be carried across the media will have a great impact in remolding our thinking especially regarding gender roles in places of work and in the society at large. Therefore the media serves the only tool in propagating messages that influence the perception of the society regarding men and women at all levels. It is an agreed fact the mass media has served as the major tool that has brought about transformation in social attitudes and perception on gender disparities by creating awareness in the society on the importance of gender equity and in mobilizing the society towards meeting the desired changes. Despite the success that the media has achieved in promoting gender equality in places of work, the mass media in other places have been accused of undermining equality by for instance continuing to post gender images that are stereotyping; something that many say has undermined the aspirations to achieve gender equity. If properly regulated, the mass media stands out as the most powerful tool at our disposal that we can employ to promote gender equality in places of work.
The question whether gender equality will take a totally new dimension in the future greatly depends on the willingness of both genders to foster a sense of equality that is based on mutual relationship. The media, authors and researchers on gender equality need to harness expertise around this issue and help in providing gender equality provisions. Therefore these people have the moral responsibility of ensuring that future subjects on gender are develop from unbiased perspectives that will help uphold gender equality in the workplaces. New approaches to ethics need to be developed to help both genders with multiple understanding ways in which gender can affect their moral decisions. For instance they also need to find ways of incorporating care-focused and status-focused approaches to ethics that will help in balancing equality disparities especially at workplaces. Future campaigns on gender equality require to be developed from the fact that gender roles and status are not inborn but are created by society.