mind the gap gender equality

The gender pay gap in media organisations has been making headlines in recent weeks, but diversity in the newsroom has been a topic of conversation in small circles or behind closed doors for years.

The revelations of harassment faced by women as well as the wider conversation around gender inequality in the industry have propelled these discussions of diversity into the limelight, and organisations have become more vocal about projects or initiatives happening inside their newsrooms to promote a media that reflects its diverse audience.

Lydia Lange is equal opportunities manager at Rundfunk Berlin Brandenburg (RBB), a national broadcaster in Germany serving the Berlin and Brandenburg regions.

At the International Journalism Festival in Italy on Thursday (12 April), she spoke on a panel on embedding diversity in the newsroom, going beyond the surface.

Lange gave up her day-to-day editorial role at RBB to take on the task of supporting initiatives that promote gender equality inside the organisation.

Her role as equal opportunities manager is strategic in the interest of women as well as the company.

“The empowerment of women means a benefit for the company,” she told delegates. “I help my radio company to be fit for the future,” she added, highlighting that “mixed teams are better teams”.

In Germany, the pay gap is 21 per cent, Lange explained. Ageism is also an issue, as a Rostock University study revealed women over the age of 30 are underrepresented in German television and film. 

Lange’s ultimate goal is gender equality at RBB, so she is closely involved with employment structures and monitoring underrepresentation.

“I take part in all job interviews and selections. The law says that in the job interviews, in cases where women are underrepresented [in that line of work], female candidates shall be favoured over male applicants with similar qualifications. It’s a very strong law which helps me a lot.”

She can suggest “gender budgeting”, so every euro the company spends is allocated across both genders, and she is also able to object to decisions.

The work life balance is also on Lange’s agenda, helping women who have taken maternity leave return to work in the same position they held previously, as well as working with men who would like to take paternal leave.

“The role of men is important, I encourage men to take the family leave so that not only women do this work and I can support them, because it’s not so easy in the company when the man says ‘I want to have one year of family leave’. I think this equality is only possible if all men help.”

Lange has also worked to set up networks where women who work in similar roles in the company can communicate and help each other. Two years ago, she set up a network of female programme assistants, and she’s currently working to build a network of female leaders at RBB.

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