The news media are essential for democratic participation and freedom of expression, influencing the agenda for public debate and framing political issues. Men have for long dominated the mediated public sphere, providing women and men with unequal access and voice in democratic discourse. Despite their crucial role in contemporary societies, we lack systematic knowledge about how gender equality in the news media is related to social development and outcomes in other areas.

The basic argument we pursue in this research project is that in order to understand how and why gender equality in the news media emerges and whether gender equality contributes to other positive outcomes in society we must conduct systematic, comparative analyses of gender and journalism. Large-scale comparative studies are required to explain variations in gender equality in the news media as well as understanding the role of the media in shaping social outcomes.

The aim of the GEM project

The aim of the project is to examine the qualities, causes and consequences of gender equality in and through the news media by employing a cross-national, comparative methodology. We apply a multidimensional approach to the meaning of gender equality in relation to the media, examining equality in news media content, news media organizations and news media access and use. The research involves systematic, empirical analyses of both the causes and consequences of media and gender equality in different countries across the globe.

The project has several outcomes that will further our understanding of the significance of gender equality in and through the news media.

More about the GEM project

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 datasets 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.

The book about GEM

The book “Comparing Gender and Media Across the Globe: A cross-national study of the qualities, causes and consequences of gender equality in and through the news media” is edited by Monika Djerf-Pierre (principal investigator), Professor & Maria Edström, Associate Professor, Department of Journalism, Media & Communication (JMG), University of Gothenburg.

The book is available to download as Open Access on Nordicom’s website in 2020.

1. Comparing gender and media equality across the globe: Understanding qualities, causes, and consequences (Monika Djerf-Pierre & Maria Edström)

2. The GEM-Index: Constructing a unitary measure of gender equality in the news (Monika Djerf-Pierre & Maria Edström)

3. Media gender equality regimes – exploring media organizations’ policy adoption across nations (Claudia Padovani & Rossella Bozzon)

4. Explaining gender equality in news content: Modernisation and a gendered media field (Monika Djerf-Pierre)

5. Axes of power - examining women's access to leadership positions in the news media (Carolyn M. Byerly & Kathrine A. McGraw)

6. The mediaworld versus the real world of women and political representation: Questioning differences but struggling for answers (Karen Ross, Marloes Jansen & Tobias Bürger)

7. Fairer sex or fairer system? Exploring the relationship between gender equality in the media and media corruption (Mathias Färdigh)

8. Gender in economic journalism: Impeccably accurate or smoke and mirrors? (Sarah Macharia).

The GEM dataset

The GEM dataset is published alongside the book about GEM in 2020 and freely available for non-commercial use on this website:

It includes three pooled datasets (Global Media Monitoring Project, GMMP, The Global Report on the Status of Women in the News Media, IWMF, and Women in Media in Europe, The European Institute for Gender Equality, EIGE) as well as a selection of other key context variables – measures of gender equality in society, women’s political representation, and economic development. The data set also includes the GEM-index, which is a composite index measuring the level of gender equality in news media content in different countries (presented in Chapter 2 of the book).

It is easy to merge the GEM datasets with other sources of data. The GEM variables can be merged with any other data set as long as it includes a country code (a three-digit numeric ISO 3166-1 code) for each of the observations to be merged. 

The GEM dataset will be free to use for non-commercial purposes and provides a valuable resource for a variety of purposes:

  • education - for use in quantitative methods courses or in comparative gender studies,
  • research - to merge with other data sets or to conduct additional analyses of the already published data,
  • policy-makers and NGOs - to track and compare the development of gender equality in the news media across countries, regions and time.


Global Media Monitoring Project (GMMP)

Contact: Sarah Macharia.

The GMMP is a longitudinal research and advocacy initiative for gender equality in and through the news media. The idea of a global media monitoring day was mooted at the Bangkok ‘Women Empowering Communication’ conference (1994) organized by the International Women’s Tribune Centre, ISIS-Manila and the World Association for Christian Communication. Noting the underrepresentation and misrepresentation of women in the news, conference participants devised the project as a means to collect empirical evidence of gender in news content and changes over time through one-day snapshots taken every five years. The media monitoring has been carried out every five years since 1995, expanding from 71 to 116 participating countries in 2020.

The Global Report on the Status of Women in the News Media (IWMF)

Contact: Carolyn M, Byerly, email:

The International Women’s Media Foundation is a Washington-based organization that is dedicated to strengthening the role of women journalists worldwide. The Global Report on the Status of Women in the News Media is their first international study of women in the news media and the data were collected 2009-2010, and published in 2011. The dataset includes detailed information on news operations with respect to men’s and women’s occupational standing, hiring and promotional policies, and other workplace practices. It also provides information about recruitment, training, policies related to advancement, news assignments, and a range of other issues that affect gender status in news organizations.


The European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE)

Contact: Ligia Nobrega.

The European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE) is an autonomous body of the European Union, established to contribute to and strengthen the promotion of gender equality, including gender mainstreaming in all EU policies and the resulting national policies, and the fight against discrimination based on sex, as well as to raise EU citizens’ awareness of gender equality. EIGE assists EU institutions and the Member States in the collection, analysis and dissemination of objective, reliable and comparable information and data on equality between women and men. The Women in Media in Europe (WIME) focus specifically on women in decision-making in media organizations across 27+1 EU member states were collected in 2012.
The research team comprised principal investigator, Prof. Karen Ross (Newcastle University), and Senior Researcher, Prof. Claudia Padovani (University of Padova), together with Prof. Erzsébet Barát (Szeged University) and Dr. Monia Azzalini (Osservatorio di Pavia). 56 researchers contributed data from the 28 EU Member States.


Researchers in the project

Monika Djerf-Pierre, Professor, Project leader, University of Gothenburg

Maria Edström, Associate professor, University of Gothenburg

Mathias A. Färdigh, Assistant professor/PhD, University of Gothenburg

International partners

The project is conducted by a Swedish research team in collaboration with four international partners:

  • Professor Carolyn Byerly (Department of Communication, Culture & Media Studies, School of Communications, Howard University)
  • Professor Karen Ross (Professor of Gender and Media, School of Arts and Cultures, Newcastle University, UK)
  • Professor Claudia Padovani (the Department of Politics, Law and International Studies DSPGI, University of Padova)
  • Ph.D. Sarah Macharia (Manager, Gender & Communication, World Association for Christian Communication, WACC, Toronto, Canada & London, U.K.)
Navigate to video: Watch the webinar about the GEM project
Video (1:38:16)
Watch the webinar about the GEM project