A first-of-its-kind, industry-wide survey by Women in Journalism and Reach reveals that three quarters of participants experienced a threat or challenge to their safety in person or online during the course of their work. A quarter of participants said they had experienced some kind of sexual harassment or sexual violence in connection to their work.
The survey also shows that these experiences may have real-world effects on the behaviour of women working in media. The research found that almost a fifth of respondents said the threat of online harm had made them consider leaving the media industry, and almost half said they promoted their work less online due to the threat of online harm.
Over 400 participants across the industry took part in the survey – a collaborative project between Women in Journalism and Reach to coincide with International Women’s Day.
Dr Rebecca Whittington, online safety editor and co-chair of Reach Equality, said: “This research confirmed what we sadly suspected – online abuse and harassment of women working in journalism and media in the UK is extensive. What is shocking though is the impact this is having on women’s careers and the hugely damaging impact that the potential exodus of women working in public-facing journalistic roles would have on equality and diversity within industry.
“Online harms are still being dismissed as being ‘part of the job’ and women in the industry are being frightened into silence. We must see this issue addressed firmly, consistently and transparently by platforms, police and employers if we want to continue to make journalism and media an industry where women want to work and thrive.”
Alison Phillips, chair of Women in Journalism and editor-in-chief of the Mirror, added: “Women have fought a long and hard battle to be seen and heard in journalism and over recent years we’ve seen many encouraging signs that this is beginning to pay off, with more women entering journalism and taking up leadership roles.
“However, these disturbing new findings show that we have a new fight on our hands – against those who try to silence us with online abuse and threats of sexual violence. Worryingly, the resulting toll on mental health and fear for physical safety indicates that a fifth of women in journalism have considered leaving the industry altogether. Without clear and coordinated action, there is a very real danger that the perpetrators will effectively silence women from playing an active part in the media.”
The findings of the survey were discussed at a live event today, 8 March, to mark International Women’s Day. Speakers included Phillips and Whittington, as well as columnist Yasmin Alibhai-Brown and LBC host Sangita Myska.
Key findings included:
● 75% of participants said they had experienced a threat or challenge to their safety from a member of the public online, in person or online and in person during the course of their work
● A quarter of participants said they had experienced some kind of sexual harassment or sexual violence in connection to their work
● Almost a fifth of respondents said the threat of online harm had made them consider leaving the media industry
● Almost half said they promoted their work less online due to the threat of online harm
Other key findings:
● A fifth of respondents said they had been subjected to harassment, sustained abuse or stalking in connection to their work
● Hate speech, backlash or pile-on and personal comments were the most reported issues from the past year
● More than a third reported being threatened or intimidated face-to-face at some point during their career
● Almost half of respondents said they had experienced misogynistic harms or harm connected to their gender or gender identity
● Reported harms were intersectional; 7% said harms experienced were connected to ethnicity, 7% said nationality had been a factor and 7% said harms experienced had been connected to socio-economic status or background
● Only a third of freelance participants expressed confidence in finding help or knowing what to do in the case of experiencing online harm. Confidence rose to more than 60% in participants employed on permanent contracts
Read the full report here.
Reach’s Dr Rebecca Whittington talks more about the findings and what they mean in this week’s ‘10 minutes with…‘ interview.