Newspapers have played a significant role in the inequality between men and women’s career or business chances.

This statement is proven in the results of my latest research, in collaboration with Mediaplatform VIDM. I investigated the way that men and women are photographed in newspapers, and came to the conclusion that pictures are stereotyped. Men are depicted as ‘the boss,’ as they are photographed in suits and dominant positions, whilst women are only portrayed to be sexy.

Men and women are also photographed in very different surroundings. Men are more often seen in a work or public environment than women (70% against 7%). On the other hand, women are mostly photographed in personal surroundings (53% versus 9%) or as a model or celebrity (37% against 4%).

Based on this data, we can conclude that supposedly objective newspapers bring selective news. Women also work, therefore at least half of the pictures of women should match a story in a work environment.

“By not publishing these kinds of images, newspapers are denying the value of women. For the reader it would seem as though women do not have a social or economic value in society.”


The media’s lack of value for women then influences their readers. In today’s overload of information and news stories, many people only read headlines or glance at pictures. These pictures are then stored by our subconscious, along with the values that they portray.

By not seeing women depicted as working or publicly speaking in the newspapers, we end up subconsciously believing that women can’t work, despite our conscious mind knowing that this is not true.

Men in decision making positions today are mostly born in the mid-fifties. This was a time period when the idea that women shouldn’t and can’t work was readily accepted. Whilst times have moved on, today’s newspapers still reflect these same values. So perhaps it is no wonder that these men will often choose male staff as their successors, or are more likely to listen to the views of other men with more respect than those from women.

Political effects

Newspapers exist to inform the public and politicians about current events in their country. Pressure from the media about certain issues can cause politicians to take action or even change the law. But serious issues that are selectively kept from the newspapers won’t be in politicians’ sight or agenda. For example, if there are no articles about working women having trouble with child care or about domestic violence, politicians will be unaware of the need for action. Without the correct information available, no laws will be made or changed.

By not presenting the news objectively, the newspapers violate political and civil rights for women. Equal citizenship means equal rights, meaning that legally men and women should have the right to the same standard of living.

In some cases this means that additional laws are needed to ensure equal rights. For example, men can’t get pregnant so have no need for maternity laws. On the other hand, women live longer than men, and so they have to pay more premiums for their pension. By not publishing objective stories of women in newspapers, the necessary gender specific laws will not be made.

“In today’s society we see that women don’t have equal rights. They don’t have equal access to money, as there is not equal pay. They may suffer domestic violence, or face sexual harassment on the internet or in public places.”

As politicians are mostly men, these issues are not of high priority to them as they are not personally affected. According to the statistics, there is a chance that at least a third of them is also a perpetrator of these crimes, making them even less likely to bring in new laws. Even if new laws were brought in to protect women, newspapers are unlikely to report on it extensively as they only bring a selective (and often male) point of view of the news.


Equal laws and rights for women should be a concern to a male politician. Today’s society pays a high price for every single girl, women or boy that had been raped as the experience of sexual violence is traumatising. At some point the victim may suffer consequences such as PTSS (Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome), depression or physical illness and will need to see a psychologist or a doctor.

I estimate the cost on an average is € 1.000,-/£ 787 per victim. In Western Europe between 33% and 45% percent of women are survivors of sexual violence. The costs of health care for victims are most likely paid by the health care insurance companies. So by preventing abuse, money can be saved.

There is another economical advantage for society if newspapers were to bring more objective news. Several researchers have shown that an equal ratio between men and women in top positions will lead to a more economical stable company and financial growth. More women at the top will stimulate the national economy and national welfare. For the men reading this, I have news for you: you too can earn more money by including women at top positions! Somehow, this fact isn’t mentioned or realised by the newspapers.

Women and men-to-be

Newspapers also create career obstacles for women, particularly young women interested in science or business. There aren’t examples of these professions represented in the media, and newspapers don’t objectively show the existence of these opportunities for women.

“A woman is unlikely aim ambitiously without inspiration. She may take a job or have an education that she thinks is expected of her, rather than follow her dreams.”

Somehow in the equality debate we forget to mention that this also counts for young boys. There are no pictures of fathers or men working in health care or child care in the newspapers. Young men don’t seem to be allowed to be sensitive, caring and loving. But most of the men I know are. They can, will and like to take care for other people. By not being allowed to be who they really are, they are far more likely to have a midlife crisis or depression, which in extreme situations could lead to suicide.

Careful choosing of news stories will help!

It will help men and women if newspapers bring more objective or balanced news. I think it will be a good start for newspapers to realise that there are a lot of ‘blind areas’ in society. Working women, women who have suffered violence, pensioners, caring fathers, children, teenagers and immigrants all have stories waiting to be told.

Journalists should start to value these stories and be more aware of the costs of denying objectivity. This kind of news is quite different to the usual male centric stories in the newspapers and by publishing these stories, the newspapers might be more interesting to read!


Nirai Melis talks to The NextWomen about her research investigating the role that newspapers play in damaging women’s chances of having a successful career or business.

Image courtesy of [stockimages] at

Published with permission.


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