By Susan Cunningham
12 November 2016
Women are strongly represented in Myanmar newsrooms but few reach decision-making levels, reflecting the many obstacles they face in advancing in their professions. In Yangon, professional opportunities are growing and society is receptive to women in many media occupations, but for those working in the states and regions, options are severely limited by traditional attitudes about women’s roles and fears about personal safety.
The findings were included in a report presented last week in Yangon at the 5th Media Development Conference by Agneta Soderberg-Jacobson, a senior gender advisor with Sweden’s Fojo Media Institute.
The report, “Gender in the Myanmar Media Landscape”, is the product of research in the past year with 298 respondents working in Myanmar print, online and broadcast media. Fojo conducted the research by surveys and focus groups with support from International Media Support (IMS). The respondents, more than half of them women, were journalists, senior editors, media managers, and representatives of media organizations. They worked in Yangon, Kayin and Shan states, and the Sagaing region.
Mothers not wanted
Of the 2,000 accredited journalists in Myanmar today, 60% are women. However, even in Yangon, the majority hold low-ranking and mid-level positions in the media industry with men dominating decision making.
The few women holding higher-ranking positions are working in English-language media or have family connections to company management, according to the report. “Women also tend to report on ‘soft’ issues such as health, education and family,” Soderberg-Jacobson said. Women are also paid less than men performing the same work.
Soderberg-Jacobson attributed the low status of Myanmar women journalists to discrimination, as well as to a lack of both social and parental support. A major barrier to advancement, emphasized by panelists at the conference and members of the audience, is the expectation by employers and Myanmar society that women not return to work after giving birth. “A majority of women journalists’ careers appeared to end with marriage or childbirth,” the report concluded. MORE