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Aidan White


Published: 28 February 2012

Region: Germany

By Aidan White

If there’s one issue likely to provoke verbal brawling in the newsroom it is whether or not women need special treatment to help them reach the top jobs in journalism.

But the use of quotas – enforcing rules to guaranteed women a minimum number of top jobs – is now established practice in many parts of the political and business world.

Where quotas have been introduced they have helped shatter the glass ceiling which restricts access of women to some of the most powerful positions in economic and public life.

But so far journalism has remained immune to such developments, a fact highlighted in the global report of the International Women’s Media Federation last year which noted that more than three-quarters of the world’s top editorial and management jobs are controlled by men, even in places where women occupy many if not most jobs in the newsroom.

This reality has provoked a reaction among hundreds of top women journalists in Germany who are demanding that an industry-wide quota to ensure that at least 30 per cent of the executive posts across the country’s media industry are filled by women.

They launched a campaign at the end of February targeting owners and editors across the country and pointing out that currently only 8 of the 360 editors in chief in the daily and weekly newspaper industry are women.

The action according to The Guardian (February 28) is also in reaction to the imposition of a 30 per cent quota of women at the country’s leading financial newspaper Handesblatt, whose editor Gabor Steingart told male colleagues when he announced the initiative “It’s not just about fairness but it also makes economic sense.”

In all areas of journalism, the quota debate is on the agenda. Next year the International Federation of journalists is planning to debate a constitutional change that will guarantee places for women at the top table.

Whether the idea will catch on in the mainstream journalism in Britain remains to be seen, but the signs are that the men-only culture of management and control of executive power in media may at last be coming under some sustained pressure.

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