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Arab women break gender bias in the Middle Eastern media

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DUBAI: A 20-year study by United Nations Women found that, as of 2015, just 24 percent of the subjects quoted, interviewed or written about in newspapers, on television, and on radio news were women.

Analysis of Reuters Institute fact sheet published in 2020, revealed that the gender breakdown of top editors in a strategic sample of 200 major online and offline news outlets in 10 different markets across four continents, just 23 percent of top editors were women, despite the fact that, on average, 40 percent of journalists in the 10 markets were women.

To address this imbalance, efforts are being made to increase the presence of women in the media and in leadership positions.

Samer Al-Mizari is a Palestinian journalist and producer at Al-Arabiya in Dubai part of a young and ambitious generation of Arab women making a name for themselves in the region’s flourishing media industry.

At 7 am sharp, Al-Mizari’s alarm clock signals the start of another busy day in the world of broadcast news. Each morning, at the breakfast table before heading out the door, she scrolls through her emails and social media apps to get up to speed with the day’s events.

“When I studied media at the American University in Dubai, what caught my attention was how most media classes had more girls than men, and this is evidence that the media today and tomorrow will be presented by Arab women,” Al-Mizari told Arab media.

“In our class, there were students from Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Lebanon, Syria, Palestine, and Jordan, and we were working and staying up all night together to prepare press materials using our different backgrounds. We were all young ambitious ladies, and, in one way or another, we worked really hard on our talents and always fought battles, and this made the class more fun.” 

Indeed, thanks to greater opportunities for work and training, Arab women now regularly host prime-time television news and report from the scenes of major stories.

“It is often said that women are driven by their emotional characters or are too sensitive, that they are unable to face difficulties in their careers,” said Al-Mizari.

“When I entered into my challenging profession, I saw honorable and hardworking examples of women of all different ages leading tasks required of them thoroughly.”

And yet, despite recent progress, women are still underrepresented in media ownership, information production, and decision-making positions worldwide.

These gender inequalities are even more pronounced in media content, with the subjects of news, features, and programming dominated by men. 

Samer Al-Mizari says it is essential that women are properly represented, both in media production and as subject matter, as no one is better qualified to explain or document the experiences of Arab women than Arab women themselves.

Like Al-Mizari, women in the Arab world have worked hard to overcome barriers to entering traditionally male-dominated industries. 

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