Beijing+5: 23rd special session of the General Assembly

Fact Sheet No. 10

Women and the Media

With the ongoing revolution in global communications and the introduction of new information technologies, the potential now exists for the media to make a historic contribution to the advancement of women.

Unfortunately, however, the print, visual, audio and electronic media in many countries do not provide a balanced picture of the diversity of women's lives and their contributions to society.  Pornographic and violent media products degrade women and negatively affect their participation in society.  Mainstream programming that reinforces women's traditional roles can be equally limiting.

The continued projection of negative and degrading images of women, as well as their unequal access to the information technology, was identified as a critical area of concern in the Platform for Action, adopted by the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995. The Conference called for the empowerment of women through  the enhancement of their skills, knowledge and access to information technology.
In 1996, during its fortieth session, the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women elaborated on the recommendations made by the Beijing Platform for action on the issue of women and the media, and proposed further action to be taken by UN member states, international organizations and civil society in this regard.

A Greater Role for Women
in Decision-making

Since the Beijing Conference, women have reached high-level decision-making positions within media organizations in several countries.  Women are also increasingly taking up careers as journalists, reporters and broadcasters.

  • In Iran, a woman was appointed as the presidential advisor in charge of press affairs.
  • In the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) in the United Kingdom, women in senior executive positions increased from 19 per cent to 29 per cent in 1995-1998. The BBC's goal was to have women occupy 30 per cent of senior executive positions and 40 per cent of senior and middle management posts by the year 2000.
  • In the Seychelles, women actually constitute the majority of the national broadcasting company's production and journalistic staff and occupy most senior posts.
  • In Italy, three women have been appointed to the board of directors of the public radio and television services.
  • In Burkina Faso, women were appointed as directors of the national television service and a private radio organization.
  • In Trinidad and Tobago, a woman was appointed as Chief Executive Officer of one of three daily newspapers.
  • From 1987 to 1997, the percentage of women journalists in Hungary rose from 10 per cent to 33 per cent.  Women are now editors-in-chief of two nationwide daily newspapers.

Women's Media

The most frequent and perhaps the most significant development reported by governments has been the emergence of columns and programmes devoted to women's issues, as well as the establishment of publications and broadcasting stations for women. These new media outlets have helped to increase the participation and positive portrayals of women in the media.

  • The British Virgin Islands has seen the emergence of a women's column in one of three weekly newspapers, a television channel for women, and radio programmes providing valuable information on women's health, legal and other issues.
  • In China, there were more than 80 women's journals in 1997, and seven of 32 television stations were running women's programmes in 1998.  The programme "Half the Sky", produced by China Central Television, has become influential, broadcasting special topics of relevance to women.
  • Yemen has two newspapers devoted exclusively to women's issues, both headed by female editors-in-chief.  In addition, four quarterly women's magazines are headed by women.
  • Two of Vanuatu's local newspapers have columns allocated to women's issues. The country also has two radio programmes devoted to women's issues and violence against women, as well as a monthly women's newspaper.



In countries where access to computers is available, increasing numbers of women have gained access to the computer technology and the Internet.  From 1995 to 1998, women's online engagements were estimated to have increased from 8.1 million to 30.1 million globally, and were expected to reach 43.3 million in 2000. The development of electronic mail has allowed women to disseminate information in a faster and less expensive way, enabling them to network, organize and mobilize more effectively.

  • The Gender in Africa Information Network (GAIN) provides an electronic networking space to share news, information and activities across Africa on issues of gender justice.
  • The Asian Women's Resource Exchange is an Internet-based women's information service and network, working towards developing cooperative approaches and partnerships to increase access to new technologies for women's empowerment.
  • AVIVA, a "webzine" run by an international group of women based in London, acts as website host to women's groups and services globally.
  • WomenWatch, the United Nations internet gateway on the advancement and empowerment of women, was launched in March 1997.  In 1999, the site held online working groups on all the critical areas of concern identified by the Beijing Platform for Action, focusing on good practices and lessons learned. The results of the working groups will be integrated into the Beijing five-year review.  WomenWatch averages over 10,000 hits per month.

Tackling the Stereotyped Portrayal

Government reports show that in most regions there has been an increase in media coverage of women's issues and concerns, and steps have been taken to promote a more balanced and non-stereotyped portrayal of women in the media. Efforts have also been made to increase gender-sensitive training for media professionals.

  • Nigeria has sponsored the production and airing of jingles in English and Hausa to promote positive images of women, with a special focus on successful women in traditionally male-dominated professions.
  • Jamaica's Women's Media Watch (WMW) has worked with journalists to change the way women are depicted in the media, and to influence broadcast policy and legislation.
  • In the Netherlands, a "Guide to Effective Image Making", containing advice from professional "image-makers" on how to identify and break stereotypical gender images, is being completed this year. The national broadcasting corporation is undertaking a five-year pilot project to find practical ways of generating broader and more varied images of both women and men.
  • In Brunei Darussalam, women's achievements and activities have been highlighted in a special column in the government newspaper and in a weekly television programme.
  • In Denmark, radio programmes on the 12 critical areas of concern identified in the Beijing Platform for Action have been produced for broadcast in Asia, Africa and Latin America.
  • Austria, Latvia, Nigeria and Swaziland are among the countries that have held gender sensitization workshops for journalists.

This fact sheet is based on "Review and Appraisal of the Implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action: Report of the Secretary-General" (E/CN.6/2000/PC/2).

Published by the United Nations Department of Public Information
DPI/2035/J—May 2000