The voices of men have “drowned out” those of women in the coverage of COVID-19 related stories in Nigeria as they are likely to be quoted nearly five times more frequently in reports than women, a September report has found.
The report analysed 2,100 sampled quotes from 80 publications across six selected countries, including India, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, the U.K. and the U.S.
Like Nigeria, the report found that men were quoted nearly five times more frequently in the news about COVID-19 than women in each of South Africa and India; four times more frequently in Kenya and the U.S., and nearly three times more in the U.K.
The report – titled the missing perspectives of women in COVID-19 news – was commissioned by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and it examined women’s representation in COVID-19 news gathering and coverage in those countries.
It said it discovered a “substantial bias towards men’s perspectives in both news gathering and news coverage of the pandemic,” an attribution it gave to women’s political underrepresentation in the COVID-19 response team in six sampled countries.
Authored by Luba Kassova, the director of AKAS, an international consultancy firm, the report analysed the news content of 11,913 publications and 1.9 million stories between March 1, 2020 and April 15, 2020 in a bid to measure gender equality coverage, and of 80 publications between the same dates for the protagonists and experts indicators.
It also detailed a portrayal analysis of 175 COVID-19 and coronavirus news stories within the said dates, published by the five most viewed online news platforms in each of the six countries of interest.
These stories, the report noted, were identified by AKAS using Google’s news search engine as the three highest ranked COVID-19 and the three highest ranked coronavirus stories between the given dates.
Women, it found, in five of the six analysed countries are “largely locked out” of COVID19 and coronavirus-related decision making at a national level.
“100 per cent of the COVID-19 response decision making group in the UK are men; 93 per cent in the U.S.; 92 per cent in Nigeria; 86 per cent in India; 80 per cent in Kenya and 50 per cent in South Africa.
“In times of crisis, journalists may be falling back on well established sources who tend to be men,” the report read.
“Women were four times less likely to feature as experts and commentators in the 175 most highly ranked COVID-19 and coronavirus stories from the top five providers in each of the six countries, identified using Google’s news search engine.
“Women constituted 19 per cent of experts vs. 77 per cent men (4 per cent were unidentified) in the 175 most highly ranked COVID-19 and coronavirus articles across the six countries, identified via Google’s news search,” the report noted.
“The computational content analysis of 44,164 sampled stories across the six countries showed that women were nearly five times less likely to feature as protagonists in news coverage headlines than men in the US, nearly four times less likely to do so in South Africa and Nigeria, three times less likely in India and Kenya and nearly three times less likely in the UK.”
The report also found that women were less likely to feature as protagonists in COVID-19-related news than in non-COVID-19 news coverage: “26% vs. 33% in the UK; 19% vs. 24% in India; 15% vs. 25% in Kenya; 15% vs. 24% in South Africa; 15% vs. 27% in Nigeria and 14% vs.21% in the U.S.
“The absence of women’s perspectives in COVID-19-related news coverage means that women have limited influence over the framing of the crisis in the news and consequently, limited influence over policy decisions,” the International Women’s Media Foundation (IWMF) wrote about the report in a brief on its website.
“As a result, women are at ever-greater risk of being further marginalised amid the most significant global health crisis of our lifetimes.”