In My Opinion: Fiona Davidson: A stronger voice for women in the media

EQUAL pay, precarious working, lack of promotion opportunities and inappropriate comments are among the main concerns raised by women working in the media in Scotland, according to a survey conducted by the National Union of Journalists (Scotland).

So far, around 60 per cent of responses have come from women and 40 per cent from men.

Men outnumber women two to one among NUJ membership in Scotland, so it is clear women are engaging more with the survey, open to all journalists and other media workers in Scotland, whether or not they are union members.

Precarious working is a growing issue with a high response rate from freelance journalists and those on casual and fixed-term contracts.

Many women, and some men, expressed concern at their lack of employment rights such as entitlement to sick pay, pensions and holiday pay.

Apart from the insecurity, there are the further complications – being unable to obtain credit or even enter into a tenancy agreement to rent a roof over your head because of the lack of a steady reliable income, not to mention the consequent stress and anxiety flowing from the fact you don’t know when you’ll next be paid.

A number of respondents also spoke about feeling inferior, vulnerable, being treated as second-class, not getting the same allowances as staffers, being afraid to speak up in case they lost their job or their shifts were cut.

The survey is part of the Stronger Voice for Women in the Media project funded via the STUC under the Trade Union, Fair Work and Modernisation Fund to find ways to strengthen women’s voices both in the newsroom and in the news and meet the Scottish Government-backed Fair Work Framework.

Fair work aims to give workers an effective voice, opportunity, job security, career fulfilment and respect.

Over 50 per cent of responses so far said they had suffered discrimination, the majority of them women but some men too.

The main categories of discrimination were equal pay, promotion and advancement opportunities, working hours and inappropriate comments.

Current problems referred to include macho attitudes, misogynistic abuse on social media, lack of female role models, online harassment, casual sexism and ‘boys’ club’ mentality.

A number of men also referred to problems with paternity leave and working hours to accommodate childcare.

Some 72 per cent of respondents felt there was a problem with the way that women and/or minority groups were represented in the media and 20 per cent had complained to management about such content.

It’s not all bad, though.

There are positive initiatives where women’s input is being actively sought about stories before publication and, in some organisations, there appears to have been a policy of positive discrimination to promote women and members of ethnic authorities to the forefront.

Findings of the survey,, will be revealed at an event at Strathclyde University next Wednesday, April 19, where there will be key speakers on women in the media and the representation of women in politics by the media.

Women will discuss their personal experiences and there will be a discussion about potential solutions to give women a stronger voice.

You can sign up for the event, here:

Fiona Davidson is women’s project worker on NUJ Scotland’s Stronger Voice for Women in the Media project, funded under the Scottish Government’s Trade Union, Fair Work and Modernisation Fund.

She is also a freelance journalist, qualified lawyer and media law tutor at the University of Strathclyde.

She edited the latest media guidelines on responsible reporting on mental health, mental illness and death by suicide and conducted research into cyberbullying the media for the NUJ, with the University of Strathclyde.

She is a reader director of The Ferret, responsible for complaints and press standards compliance and whistleblowing policies.