Coverage: “#MeToo, Now What?”

Side event at CSW62 convenes media representatives to discuss women in the media, from outcry to action

Date: Friday, March 16, 2018

Side event at CSW62 convenes media representatives and actor Sienna Miller (centre) to discuss women in the media. Photo: UN Women/Ryan Brown
Side event at CSW62 convenes media representatives and actor Sienna Miller (centre) to discuss women in the media. Photo: UN Women/Ryan Brown

“The Media has a powerful voice to expose wrongdoings and to hold the powerful to account,” said Sienna Miller, renowned actor and activist, at the opening of the side event, “#MeToo, Now What?”, co-organized today by the Permanent Mission of Norway to the UN, The Guardian and UN Women at the 62nd Commission on the Status of Women.

Sharing her own story and speaking about the importance of the #MeToo movement, Ms. Miller said: “I was gossip column fodder in my early 20-s when I first became a so-called celebrity. I was an optimistic, driven, hardworking and ambitious, young woman, determined to pursue a career in acting, based on my merit and talent…I found myself relentlessly harassed... My life and career was in hands of people intent on destruction, people who judged and vilified me in ways they never would have done if I was a man…. I fought back, I got privacy laws changed.”

Recent events have uncovered the scale of gender discrimination and sexual exploitation of women in the media and advertising industries. Today’s event aimed to seize this opportunity to move from the global outcry against gender discrimination in the media, by showcasing solutions and ideas from key players in the field.

Actor and activist Sienna Miller speaking at UN CSW62 side event organized by UN Women, Norway and The Guardian. Photo: UN Women/Ryan Brown
Actor and activist Sienna Miller speaking at UN CSW62 side event organized by UN Women, Norway and The Guardian. Photo: UN Women/Ryan Brown

The panel, moderated by Polly Toynbee, Columnist from The Guardian, featured Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, UN Women Executive Director; Pamella Sittoni, Managing Editor of East African, Nation Media Group; Fatemah Farag, Founder of Welad el Belad and Director of Women in News in MENA region; and Matthew Winkler, Co-Founder and Editor-in-Chief Emeritus of Bloomberg News.

 “The MeToo is probably the most profound movement I’ve observed,” said Matthew Winkler. “Just about every category of every profession has been affected… Me Too has given new meaning to the concept and practice of zero tolerance.”  As Editor-in-Chief, Matt Winkler oversaw a strategy to increase gender balance in the newsroom and in editorial coverage of Bloomberg News. It set targets for increasing women in leadership roles in the newsroom, inclusion of women’s voices in their stories and flexible working hours for parents.

The magnitude of sexual harassment cases demonstrates the culture of discrimination against women and girls that permeates every aspect of society. While women represent half of the world’s population, less than one-third of all speaking characters in film are female. Only one-fourth of the persons heard, read about or seen in newspaper, television and radio news are female, according to the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media.

The gender pay gap is flagrant within the media industry. Some reports show that where women make 77 cents to every dollar a man makes in most other industries, in Hollywood, for example, women are making 30 cents to the dollar. The pay disparity is even worse for women of color in the entertainment industry.

Side event at CSW62 discusses women in the media. Photo: UN Women/Ryan Brown
Side event at CSW62 discusses women in the media. Photo: UN Women/Ryan Brown

Emphasizing the importance of sustaining the #MeToo movement, UN Women Executive Director, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka said: “For the first time, we actually see powerful men being held accountable,” and added that “those who have the platform should use it to fight on behalf of everybody.”

“The importance of this moment is to be sustained so that we can also save lives, because women die as a result of entrenched violence against women. We are right now mourning Marielle Franco in Brazil, who was killed. [She was] one of the best activist, feminist, politician, fighter for women’s rights.”

Films, television, news media, online platforms and the advertising industry all shape the ways we think—and act, and thus have great potential in contributing to positive change. The discussions at the event focused on how media can become powerful players in driving women’s empowerment and gender equality as part of the Sustainable Development Agenda.

The speakers called for accountability, mainstreaming gender into media programmes, and specific efforts to establish equal pay, gender parity and more women in decision-making roles within media.

Ine Marie Eriksen Søreide, Norway’s Minister for Foreign Affairs. Photo: UN Women/Ryan Brown
Ine Marie Eriksen Søreide, Norway’s Minister for Foreign Affairs. Photo: UN Women/Ryan Brown

Pamella Sittoni, Managing Editor of East African, Nation Media Group, shared her experiences as an African woman in the media, and noted the prevalent culture of silence that prevents women from speaking out and reporting. “We need to look at how to move forward from speaking up, how do we make sure this stops, how do we bring the culprits to book,” she said.

“We need to stop taking gender as a separate topic, especially within media development programmes. We need to mainstream gender,” said Fatemah Farag, Founder of Welad el Belad and Director of Women in News in MENA region, adding, “Until we start doing this, and until we start engaging men as well, it will always be considered an add on, but not an essential component of what it is that we are doing.”

“Stay with the story” of #Metoo and gender discrimination, was the resounding recommendation from the speakers.

Ine Marie Eriksen Søreide, Norway’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, closed the event with powerful words: “There is no going back after this. There is no room for leaders who don’t take sexual harassment seriously.”

“The media is really powerful, and if used right, it is something that can push the gender equality debate forward,” she concluded. “You write the articles that are read by millions, you write the tv scripts that shape the way we perceive the world around us, and you act in the tv series and films. We need you all to keep speaking out.”

This year, the review theme of the Commission on the Status of Women includes women’s participation in the media and the use of media for the advancement of women’s empowerment.