Ecuadorian journalists create directory of women experts to encourage diversity of sources in the press

Journalists Isabela Ponce and María Sol Borja, from the Ecuadorian website GK, developed a digital platform called Voces Expertas, to bring together women experts with the aim of increasing the presence of women among journalistic sources in Latin America.

Any woman can register with the system, which has been receiving applications for three weeks and is due to launch in February. The project separated the areas of knowledge into 16 categories to facilitate searches, such as economics, architecture and urbanism, social sciences, health sciences, psychology, law, exact sciences, among others. In the form, specialists can choose to make their contact information public, such as telephone and email, in addition to including which types of media they want to talk to (written press, radio, television).

Voces Expertas logo

Voces Expertas logo

According to Isabela Ponce, who is a co-founder, editorial director and gender editor at GK, the project has already received 230 applications spread across all areas of knowledge. "That has been really cool for us. Very quickly people filled out the forms and it has been organic, through the networks. We haven't done an event or an official launch, yet. We also received inquiries from groups in Ecuador and Argentina interested in partnering," Ponce told the Knight Center.

The platform's main target audience are experts from Latin America, but there is no ban on women residing in other countries signing up. The forms will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

"Ideally, the woman should be in Latin America, because the objective is to elevate Latin American voices. I know that there are similar directories in other countries, so eventually I would like to form alliances and to have a larger database,” Ponce said.

In addition to collecting the forms, the GK team verifies that the information is complete and contacts the experts to answer any questions. "We are not going to copy and paste. The guide needs to be complete for when it is used and with reliable information, so we ask the women to put links to academic articles, things that can serve to fact-check the person's identity,” she said.

In addition to Ponce and María Sol Borja, who is transparency editor at GK, the Voces Expertas team includes Gabriela Valarezo, art director, as well as a reporter and a programmer. For the second stage, Ponce plans to offer media training for the specialists. The journalist says she is looking for funding for the project and for media training.

For her, having more women sources is not just a question of justice and equality, but a way to improve journalistic content. "The objective is that reality can be told in a more balanced way, because history has always been told by men. The focus and vision of women give you other realities and proposals, which are more inclusive and are things that you don’t notice because the world has a masculine viewpoint”

In addition, the project aims to empower women, so that they can be voices with authority in the press and influential personalities. According to Ponce, representation also has an impact on girls. "Giving visibility to women in positions that are, ‘for men’, makes girls have more references and they can become successful women."

According to the 2015 report of the Global Media Monitoring Project (GMMP), the most recent edition, only 27 percent of the experts consulted in coverage were women in Latin America. This means that there are about one woman for every three men who appear as sources in the television, print, radio and online news in the region.

Ponce pointed out, however, that Voces Expertas is not enough to solve this problem. Journalists need to make an effort to diversify their sources.

Gabriela Valarezo, diretora de arte, Sol Borja, editora de Transparência, e Isabela Ponce, diretora editorial / Foto: José María León

Gabriela Valarezo, art director, Sol Borja, transparency editor, and Isabela Ponce, editorial director (Photo: José María León)

“The directory is a very useful tool, but it depends on the journalists using it. Today journalists are in a comfort zone of that patriarchal culture, it seems normal to us that all economists in a report are men, for example. So, yes, it is a lack of seeing beyond and challenging the work,” she said.

Ponce said that the project idea is the result of a process. Gender is one of the main coverage areas of GK, whose newsroom is composed of eight women and two men. Before Voces Expertas, the journalists had already developed projects to highlight women specialists.

“In May 2017, when Rafael Correa's government ended, we asked ten women to write ten analyses on aspects of government in which they were experts. For example, human rights, environment, culture, etc. In February 2018, we did this exercise again with a popular consultation of the Lenín Moreno government,” she explained.

The idea of systematizing and organizing the sources on a platform emerged in December 2019, during a trip by Sol Borja to France.

“She learned about a project called Les Expertes there. And she thought: 'that's amazing, we have to do that, how have we never thought of this before? One thing is that at GK we want all reports to have this balance, but why not promote it to more media and journalists? And why not do it in Latin America?” Ponce remembered.

According to her, there are more and more regional discussions on gender, environment, political and economic crises, so it is important to be able to exchange information. "There is a lot to share between these countries."