Amina Mohamed, founded Cameras For Girls to change the lives of girls and women in Uganda, through the power of photography.
The world has changed in many ways since the first International Women’s Day, on March 8, 1911. Back then, women were fighting to gain the right to vote, and they were often paid less than men. Today, although we have made great strides toward gender equality, there are still several factors that lead to pay inequity between men and women — including the fact that there are fewer female journalists in developing countries than males.
In many countries, female journalists earn less than their male counterparts despite doing the same work and having similar years of experience in the industry. Female journalists in developing countries often make 60 percent less than men with the same skill sets. While this pay inequity may seem shocking to some, several factors contribute to it that deserve closer examination to help empower women worldwide through equal pay and better job opportunities.
Global Wage Gap Data
The gender pay gap is well-documented, but did you know it also exists within certain professions? For example, I found some data from UNESCO on wage inequity in journalism. In 2011 female journalists earned 39% less than their male counterparts. Considering what significant movements like #meetoo and #timesup have been lately, this is something to consider. And to be clear, I’m not saying that these movements aren’t justified or that there isn’t an urgent need for action against sexual harassment. The point is simply that equal pay for women should be part of our discussions of gender equality—and it doesn’t even end with journalists!
Despite working as hard and often harder than their male counterparts, women worldwide earned only 74% of what men did in 2019. Throw in the effects of the pandemic, and that number is even worse.
The gender wage gap is even wider for female journalists and media professionals. According to a recent study on pay inequity from the Global Media Monitoring Project (GMMP), males reported earning $37,799 annually while women earned $23,367—or 61% of what their male counterparts made. This means that a woman made about two dollars less for every dollar a man made as a journalist or media professional in 2019. if you’re wondering how it can get worse than that…it does: GMMP data shows that starting salaries for female journalists are lower globally on average.
In Uganda, where our organization Cameras For Girls works, I was having a discussion with one of my students, who now works in PR, after having previously worked in the journalism field. One of the main reasons she left journalism was the low pay. For every article she put out, she was paid 5,000 Ugandan Shillings or the equivalent of $1.50 USD. How can she support herself and her family?
In Uganda, female journalists are paid 17-35% less than their male counterparts. To get a job in the first place, they must own a camera and know how to use it to accompany their stories with properly exposed and composed photos. This is the number one reason why Cameras For Girls exists. We fill that gap where none other exists by giving each of our female students a camera to keep and the year-long photography and business skills curriculum to help her get a paid job.
The Problem for Females in Africa
The gender wage gap is a significant issue worldwide. Still, it is particularly problematic for women in developing countries who are paid far less than their male counterparts despite having impressive credentials and vast amounts of experience. It’s been well-documented that women working full-time jobs earn 77 cents to every dollar men earn in America; however, when you compare that number to how much African females make compared to African males with similar work backgrounds, you see just how severely they’re discriminated against. For example, according to The Guardian, women journalists in Somalia can expect a monthly salary of $120; by comparison, men make upwards of $1,200 per month.
According to findings published by UN Women, Africa is still a continent where women are marginalized. The report found that only one out of five women have a bank account and female journalists make up just 15% of their profession. And, as female journalists often complain about inequity in pay, political representation is also skewed towards men as fewer than 10% female politicians in most countries. According to Neema Namadamu, executive director at Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA), Gender equity is high on our agenda. She believes that newspapers must begin hiring more women reporters and using them as sources to be heard and their stories told. This could lead to great strides towards economic empowerment for African females, influencing their overall level of development.
A Female Journalist’s Experience
In countries with high gender inequality, female journalists often make significantly less than their male counterparts, dominating leadership positions. This is especially true of female journalists working in developing countries, where women suffer from multiple layers of oppression and discrimination. This gender pay inequity is a problem that needs to be addressed; female empowerment begins with gender equality.
One of my students, who will remain anonymous to protect her identity, recounted her experience of working in Uganda for a popular newspaper outlet. She had fought hard to get into school and get a job amidst much frustration, sexual harassment and gender inequality.
“I wasn’t sure if it was just a fluke when I started working at my first international news organization in Uganda. Over time, however, I realized it was not. Our company employed only two other women, and both of them worked behind desks, while every single male employee worked on-camera or off. It made me angry and frustrated, but I didn’t feel I had the power to confront my bosses in my position. Then my agency got bought out by a larger one with an even worse track record of gender pay inequity than our former employer had – so much so that they wouldn’t let us write articles or get published unless we agreed to be paid less than half of what they would pay our male colleagues.”
Unfortunately, her recount is not only the tales I read or hear about – it’s happening everywhere across the journalism sector in Africa.
What Can We Do to Eradicate Gender Pay Inequity?
The shocking statistics in this article should serve as a wake-up call. It speaks volumes of how deeply entrenched gender discrimination is within our society. Moreover, it challenges us to think about how we can empower and enable women across all professions to reach their true potential and stop fighting so hard for a seat at the negotiating table. Fighting for equal pay should not be considered a right- or left-wing issue—it is an issue that affects us all regardless of race, age or income level.
Recently one of my students recounted her experience when she finally got a job interview for a communications job. We worked diligently to make sure her resume, cover letter and Linkedin profile were adequately set up and that she had all of her ducks in a row. Sadly, however, we were both disheartened when she was told she could have the job if she paid for it with money or sex. Again, this is not a one-time story of one female and her experience seeking a well-paying job – this happens to females worldwide. The difference is that women in the developed world have more opportunities than women in the developing world. The difference comes down to many factors, such as your family structure, your education, where you are lucky to live, etc.
But we cannot give up!
We must fight and scream out about this injustice. Social media is not only a tool to share our good news, our photos, etc.; it’s also a great platform to rally support – especially for marginalized females in Africa.
Ways You Can Help
How can you help empower female journalists? Let’s start with education. In many places, females aren’t allowed to be educated in schools or universities. Many parents want a daughter to stay home and take care of her family rather than pursue higher education and forge a career path for herself. Beyond that, there’s also a significant gender gap in income—female journalists earn significantly less than their male counterparts—but why? There are some societal factors at play. Girls have fewer opportunities to pursue extracurricular activities than boys; they often get married young (14–18 years old), which means they give up their career paths; they have babies, etc. Which also leads to the cycle of poverty never being broken – especially for girls and women.
Will you join us and lend your support? At Cameras For Girls, we strive every day to give our female African students a fighting chance to get a well-paid job without sexual harassment and gender pay inequity.
Please check out our work at https://www.camerasforgirls.org/about/our-workshops.