AS IT HAPPENED: Mary Honeyball MEP gives a European perspective
Labour MEP Mary Honeyball gave MEDIANE a European take on media diversity inclusiveness and gender issues. Her talk included marginalised groups but focused on gender issues.
17:37: Honeyball says women are still “very marginalised” within the media. She has come straight from Brussels to City University London, and says she’s very pleased that there are now more Labour MEPs than men, “the first time we’ve managed to achieve that”. She says he is a great believer in quotas. She gives Sweden as an example of a country that manages to have a parliament that is half women. Honeyball says even Sweden would be struggling without quotas. How are we going to tackle the problem?
17:41: “It’s absolutely appalling” that representation of women in the media is even worse than in politics. There’s an illusion that there are more women in the media than there actually are.
17:42: Research looking at media coverage of top women in German politics after Angela Merkel had become Chancellor showed that they did not get as much coverage as the men. Media coverage is lower for women than for men unless they happen to be at the very top.
17:45: When we move away from women and look at people with disabilities, the picture is worse. Honeyball mentions the case of a disabled journalist who was not seen as a “proper reporter” at the BBC.
17:47: “There’s a real job to do particularly in news”. She says if you don’t make a fuss about it, nothing is going to change. Honeyball hopes that after her talk, MEDIANE participants will feel able to continue the fight and keep talking about it.
17:50: Women and age is a subject that’s just about being raised, and Honeyball says “it’s like women just disappear off the face of the earth when they’re 40”. She thinks it’s appalling that the men running the programmes think women are not photogenic enough. Age discrimination is one of the issues that we really need to talk about.
17:52: Until the whole structure is reformed, the media will keep having these imbalances. In Austria, the law was amended to include 45 per cent of women in decision making roles as a goal. Honeyball believes we have to deal with this in terms of quotas and direct action.
17: 54: We need people within organisations where this sort of decision are made on our side and willing to fight as well. “I don’t think that’s impossible”, says Honeyball, “we need to tackle this at all levels”.
17:57: Honeyball says they used to joke in the 80s that “there were more Labour men in the House of Commons called John than there were women”. At present, about a third of the MEPs in the EU Parliament are women.
18:00: A third is an important number because when you get to that level, it is not longer unusual to see women involved. “What we want in the end is parity, 50-50, but we have to start somewhere.” She says a third is a good number to aim for.
18:02: There’s nothing in this country that is dedicated to women’s issues. We’ve been losing women’s committees – Honeyball says that while women’s issues are part of the agenda, the forum has been lost.
18: 05: Non-legislative reports have been published regarding stereotypes of women and women in advertising, but work on how women appear in the media and how they work in the media hasn’t been done. “We should because it actually informs all of our views”. She says the media is unique and important because it shows us these things. “This is why it’s important to improve the way the media presents itself.”
18:07: “The whole thing about women politicians and family seems to be turning around on its head.” Honeyball says it’s still very tough. She has a colleague who had two children while she was an MEP, and she stepped down. Honeyball herself doesn’t have any children.
18:09: The attitude towards women’s appearance is also highlighted as an issue. “You don’t step outside the front door with your hair not done.” Honeyball says women are diverted towards something which doesn’t actually matter at all. She’s still concerned with this because women get a lot of comments if they aren’t. It’s the lesser of two evils.
18:12: Honeyball says women politicians do get together and talk about these things, but they haven’t reached a solution yet. Women who “don’t bother” receive a lot of criticism.
18:14: “Women are still seen as fair game, and social media has made that worse.” She says we all need to speak up and stop that.
18:18: Question from the audience: Why didn’t the Labour government raise it left, right, and centre? “Politicians are in a position of power, why haven’t they done more?” Honeyball says one of the big problems is that politicians need to keep the media on their side, she says they need a bit more courage, to get over that and just do it. The House of Commons is still only a fifth women, no matter how hard they push they are still a minority.
18:19: Anna McKane rounds off the session by saying broadcasters are “into tokenism”, but diversity is just not there behind the scenes.