Last month, South Africa’s national women’s football team, Banyana Bayana, was crowned the Women’s Africa Cup of Nations (WAFCON) champions against Morocco, a remarkable victory for South Africa! The team was welcomed at OR Tambo International Airport upon their arrival, by fans and supporters dancing and celebrating their success, with several dignitaries in attendance.
However, this victory centred on an important issue that is constantly ignored in women’s sports – equal pay. Despite Banyana Banyana outperforming the men’s team, who have battled to qualify for tournaments in the past two years, they still earn way less than their male counterparts.
For me, this is one of the reasons Women’s Month is relevant. Women continuously outperform men in various professional sectors but continue to be side-lined and overlooked.
Every year on the 9th of August, South Africans celebrate and commemorate the women of 1956 who marched to the Union Building to protest the Urban Areas Act, which required black South Africans to carry an internal passport, which maintained segregation and control over South Africans.
But 65 years later, women in South Africa still feel like their freedom is not prioritised – and the gender pay gap is a stark reminder of that.
This gender gap is also very evident in the journalism and media sector.
In the 2019/2020 State of the Newsroom, Kathy Magrobi, founder, and director of Quote this Women+ wrote a commentary titled Minding the News Gender gap. The article highlights that in South Africa, data proves that “a woman is quoted as a general news source just once for every five times that a man is.” And this is before we start talking about the sports and business news sector.
I spoke to four women media practitioners; broadcast journalist Aurelie Kalenga, content creator and curator Refilwe Pitjeng, investigative journalist Seun Durojaiye and marketing specialist Indipile Boyce, about the importance of Women’s Month and the issues that women face in the media today.
“I believe that one major issue that women face in media today is equal pay,” said Durojaiye.
“I have read stories of women being paid less than their male colleagues, and for whatever reason, it’s not right,” she said.
“I think it is relevant, that in a country that is gender-based violence (GBV) infested, and from time to time still sees women being overlooked for positions they are qualified for inequality, sexual harassment, and bullying are prevalent in the media industry,” Boyce said.
She added that “women still need to work twice as hard, prove themselves for positions they qualify for, and still go through victimisation.”
Kalenga said Women’s Day is important but noted that the day can’t be boiled down to a citizens’ braai and empty promises.
“There must be action taken about the plight of women in this country and measures to improve our lives,” she said.
“In newsrooms, like the rest of the corporate world, women are often side-lined and have to fight to be given a chance to do ‘big stories’. There is also the issue of pay disparities between women and men,” she added.
Kalenga emphasised the importance of allowing women to choose which beats they want to do, that women are trusted to deliver, and that they are supported through proper leadership, mentorship and guidance.
According to Quote This Women+, one of the reasons there is gender bias in the media is because “women generally receive less mentoring, and are less likely to receive centre-stage early in their careers, meaning that they are often less confident in owning their voices.”
“I think that women need mentors and role models in the workplace,” Durojaiye said, adding that “there are very few women at the top to look up to and while that can be a positive challenge for some, for most it’s limiting. It contributes to the limiting belief that women are not good enough or lack the capacity to occupy certain spaces.”
After 65 years, it is discouraging that women’s issues are packed in a month of dialogues and Twitter Spaces and maybe a conference here and there, but it is still important to have this month, because, through the dialogues, we are brought a step closer to dismantling the obstacles that women face.