Women leaving workplace a worry, says Sagarika Ghose

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Ghose said the corporatization of media has silenced many women-journalists. She said there is some level of disparity in salaries and incentives between male and female journalists.

Sagarika Ghose

“A large number of women are falling out of work in India and it is a worrying fact,” said Sagarika Ghose, noted journalist and author.

“For various reasons, including the post-pandemic situations, more and more women are leaving workplace,” said Ghose during her Women’s Day conversation with another senior journalist, Saraswathy Nagarajan, on “Breaking Patriarchy in Media: A Reality Check,” organised by Vakkom Moulavi Memorial and Research Centre (VMMRC).

One of the country’s most noted journalists, Ghose said some of the male editors are wary of employing female journalists since the MeToo incidents and revelations.

Ghose said the corporatization of media has silenced many women-journalists. She said there is some level of disparity in salaries and incentives between male and female journalists.

Though digital media has given ample opportunities for women, the general mindset has to change. “Unless the mindset of people about women in the media has changed, we will continue to face opposition and bullying,” she added. She said cyberbullying and threats to woman-journalists online often cross the limits of decency. Ghose, who was a close friend of journalist and activist Gauri Lankesh, who was shot dead in 2017, said Lankesh used to get a number of threats. “We used to rubbish them,” she said, adding that unless the authority takes an active interest in cyberbullying of women, woman-journalists cannot work with freedom.

Ghose, who has won the Best Anchor Award from Indian Television Academy, said the standard of Indian television journalism has gone down.

Patronage has brought in some degree of patriarchy, she said but added that ‘at least it gives the young girls some space to work’. Unlike their male colleagues’ female journalists who have a family, have to go back home at the end of the day to take care of ‘home’ while the male colleagues are free to chase the story in many places.

However, she said she was fortunate to have worked with supportive male editors like Vinod Mehta and Dilip Padgaonkar, who had encouraged her to ‘go out and do’ her stories. But, she said, when she started out, she was assigned ‘soft’ stories and her male colleagues were given ‘hard’ stories.

Television and newsmagazines have played an important role in bringing women journalists to the forefront, she said. “Television journalism has given visibility to female reporters, and the newsmagazines gave them opportunities to write long-form pieces,” said Ghose, who has already published two in her trilogy of biographies of Indian prime ministers. Her biographies of Indira Gandhi and Atal Bihari Vajpayee are already out. Her novels, The Gin Drinkers and Blind Faith and nonfiction book, Why I am a Liberal? have attracted readers’ attention.

Though things have improved for women journalists in newsrooms across the country, there are still elements of patriarchy as a woman is still to become an editor-in-chief in a mainstream media organisation. “There are ‘informal spaces’ which are strictly male bastions, where a woman reporter cannot go in field reporting,” she said.

Dr Ravi Raman, member of Planning Board, Kerala, and Prof. Mathew Kurien and Sabin Iqbal spoke at the function. Dr Shahina Javad proposed the vote of thanks.

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