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University of Gothenburg

The GEM project

Gender equality in the media has been emphasized by the United Nations as one of the critical issues for the future. Still, we know very little about the factors that encourage gender equality in the media and even less about the consequences that the lack of gender equality may entail for social and political life.

In a mediatized society, where the media permeate every aspect of social and political life, the media are more than just vehicles for circulating a fixed and given set of gender conceptions. Media research often claims that the media simultaneously reflects and reshapes the social world. Media content mirrors (and thus reproduces) gender relations, while at the same time sometimes challenging and transforming them.

The project addresses three key questions:

  • QUALITIES. How has gender equality in news media content, media organizations and media access and use developed over time and across different countries and how are the different aspects related?
  • CAUSES. To what extent can differences in gender equality in the media be explained as a result of variations in economic, political, social, and cultural factors in society, as well as factors pertaining to differences in media systems?
  • CONSEQUENCES. To what degree is gender equality in the media related to other aspects of a Good Society, such as democracy, media freedom, economic and social development and good government, the latter particularly with regard to freedom from corruption?

The advancement of gender research in recent years has created entirely new opportunities for innovative research in the field. At present, there is a noticeable amount of descriptive data available for the study of gender equality in media content and media organizations, both across countries and over time. However, the actual analyses of the existing data have so far mainly been descriptive and the statistical methods employed are restricted to basic statistics such as frequency distributions and cross tabulations, mostly at the level of single countries or regions. Multivariate quantitative methods that facilitate for proper causal analyses have so far been missing from the research agenda. The present project aims at taking systematic, comparative research on gender equality in and through the news media to the next level:

  • First by bringing together, complementing, and reanalyzing existing data on media/gender equality - in media content, in media organizations, and with regard to media access and use.
  • Second by combining the data sets on gender equality with existing sources of empirical data on the essential structural and cultural factors in society and in the media system, which can explain the differences in media/gender equality between countries. Different studies use data from World Economic Forum (WEF), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), International Labour Organization (ILO), World Values Survey (WVS), Quality of Government Institute, Varieties of Democracy (V-dem) and several other data sources.
  • Third by employing advanced quantitative methods for analyzing data and testing statistical relationships. The new methodological approach will provide a unique possibility to provide new insights into how various factors contribute to increasing equality, which factors are necessary and/or sufficient, as well as understanding the societal consequences of the lack of gender equality in the media. The basis for comparison is data collected at the national level.