African media and female journalists
Childbirth is also a perfectly natural phenomenon that most women go through at a certain stage in their lives. Pregnancy also comes with changes that are sometimes not welcomed by media employers. This is particularly problematic in the case of TV presenters whose appearance changes in pregnancy. New weight gains, pimples, and pregnancy masks could make them not appear as telegenic as before.
While some journalists have lost jobs after becoming pregnant, others were hired only after promising not to become pregnant throughout the term of their employment.
A journalist at a private television station in Douala, Cameroon, was forced to work for 14 hours a day without a breaks, covering the most difficult stories for all nine months of her pregnancy. Then she was placed on three months of unpaid maternity leave. In the same station, pregnancy has become taboo. When the inevitable pregnancy occurs, the journalist is stigmatized and treated with disdain even by fellow female colleagues.
4) Decision-making positions remain off-limits
In all of Cameroonian media, there is just one female editor-in-chief. Media institutions view women as the "weaker sex", and they are even considered not intelligent enough to take major decisions and do news analysis.
According to analysis by Reporters Without Borders, “though many journalists who belong to the fairer sex have been involved in bringing up to date and precise news to the forefront and in spite of the fact that numerous women take up journalism and press reporting as professions there are very few women who have been able to make it big here.”
Decision-making and editorial positions in Africa are still highly male dominated despite a strong female presence in newsrooms. A television proprietor once emphasized to his workers that women constitute an important part of the “décor” of his station. The implications of this statement cannot be overemphasized in a working environment where women have no say in the daily decisions made. Women are expected to look beautiful, so as to attract the audience, and nothing too intellectual is required of them.
During the fourth UN world conference on women held in Beijing in 1995, gender disparities within the African media featured among the 12 key points discussed, and specific reference was made to the fact that African women rarely have decision-making roles in media.
Sadly enough, male domination of the decision-making corridors of the media with their powerful cultural roles has, in turn, set the agenda for a strong patriarchal order in most African communities. The scarcity of female columnists in most African newsrooms makes it difficult for burning issues to be discussed from a female perspective.
Since the majority of media owners are males and they decide which position females occupy, it becomes very difficult to establish newsroom management policies, such as maternity leave and sexual-assault sanctions, that would put women at ease. The blend of a strong feminine presence in African media and a very weak representation of women in decision-making positions has created a strange dynamic, where predominantly male-hatched ideas come to be accepted by media outsiders as products of joint efforts by male and female media experts.