Equality report accuses French press of upholding sexist values

·2-min read

A gender equality body in France says the country's print media continues to contribute to sexist stereotypes. Its latest report noted that women were quoted less in articles, and women journalists were in charge of culture rather than sport and politics. As a result, it's calling for a quota system and penalties to address the issue.

"This bias is visible within newsroom staff and in the way articles are published," the High Council of Equality between Women and Men (HCE) said in its report, published on Thursday.

The authors began by looking at the proportion of women journalists working for six major daily news outlets, two weeklies and three women's magazines: Le Monde, Le Figaro, Le Parisien, Ouest France, Sud Ouest, 20 Minutes, Point, l'Obs, Elle, Marie Claire and Femme Actuelle.

It also looked at which sections they wrote for and whether women were present in upper management.

The results showed that on average, 30 percent of women were working in general news sections, a figure which goes up to 50 percent when including women's magazines.

Only 20 percent worked on the political sections of these publications.

However, at the magazine l'Obs, 77 percent of journalists in the international news section were women.

No women at the top

None of the publications had women directors.

In terms of the content, the report looked at examples published on 3 December, 2020, for the weeklies and 7 December for the dailies.

Women represented on average 23 percent of people mentioned inside articles, and 21 percent of those quoted for articles.

Globally, articles with a woman as the main interviewee made up less than 20 percent of the content analysed.

The report found descriptions of physique or age were used more often in relation to women than with men: "flamboyant redhead", "petite blond", "sexy actress", are just a few of the examples cited.

​​​​Quotas and monitoring

The HCE says it will take a whole paradigm shift before things can begin to improve, and that "counting heads" is not enough.

The advisory body has called for "quantifiable objectives" which can be measured each year, coupled with an a fine for companies not meeting the obligations.

For example, the council suggested the creation of a quota for women at decision-making levels, and sliding penalty scale in terms of state aid if quotas aren't met.

"Newspapers should equip themselves with automated systems where possible, to count the composition of staff in each newsroom, and the content of the articles published," it said.

It also suggests nominating a "gender editor" in charge of ensuring balanced content, as the investigative website Mediapart has done.

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