More female reporters abroad (please)

“Sexual harassment allegations sweeping across the industry are knocking out television and newspaper heavyweights across the globe. There’s been a lot of talk about the need to diversify the workplace, and bring in more female reporters. Going forward, will media organizations practice what they preach and employ more women in their foreign postings?”

The scoop of the last century came from Clare Hollingworth, who reported on the outbreak of World War II. The British reporter died this year, at age 105. She was an inspiration for generations of aspiring female foreign reporters. But almost eighty years after Hollingworth’s spectacular exclusive, women reporters posted abroad are still fairly far and few between.

Why is this? Because the more coveted and desirable something becomes, the harder it is for marginalized groups to emerge victorious. News outlets are globally retrenching, cutting back jobs in their foreign bureaux and reducing headcounts. Fewer jobs mean more eyes on the prize, and women are often excluded. And while it is difficult to find statistics on the number of women foreign reporters (unlike the situation in American and British national newsrooms, which we know are dominated by white men), there is evidence to suggest they are severely outnumbered.

By The New York Times’ own admission earlier this year, men “claim a comfortable majority on the foreign staff.” Nikon’s recent decision to feature 32 professional photographers from across Africa and Asia featured zero women, and was met with a backlash by female photojournalists. And in foreign reporting awards, such as the Pulitzers, the George Polk Awards, and the Robert Capa Gold Medal Award, men are overwhelmingly rewarded over women.

I see the imbalance where I currently live, in Moscow. Arguably one of the hottest global stories at the moment, the press corps here is male-heavy, and at The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Guardian, and The Washington Post, only male reporters are employed (not to mention the various one-man operations at other organizations in Moscow).

When you’re in the business of storytelling, having female reporters is crucial.

They bring fresh perspectives, and the world benefits as a result: Stories are more nuanced, richer, fuller. It is our duty, as members of the foreign press, to relay stories that are as complete as possible. They should be the most powerful in their ability to decipher the world around us. Gender equality has not been so precarious for a long time: According to the World Economic Forum, being a woman got even worse this year, with the gap between men and women’s achievements widening. And if we dampen, and in some cases effectively silence, women’s voices from the global chorus, we fail news consumers.

For women in the media, 2017 feels like a year of reckoning. Sexual harassment allegations sweeping across the industry are knocking out television and newspaper heavyweights across the globe. There’s been a lot of talk about the need to diversify the workplace, and bring in more female reporters. Going forward, will media organizations practice what they preach and employ more women in their foreign postings?

Amie Ferris-Rotman is Foreign Policy’s Moscow correspondent and founder of Sahar Speaks.

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