Percentage of women and people of color who are leaders in newsrooms is stagnant in Latin America, according to Reuters Institute

The Reuters Institute has analyzed gender inequality and the percentage of people of color in newsroom leadership since 2020. The results have not been the most encouraging.

According to the study Women and leadership in the news media 2024: Evidence from 12 markets, women occupy 24% of the 174 top editor positions in the newsrooms of the 240 media outlets it analyzed on four continents. Two percentage points above last year when it stood at 22%.

For example, in Mexico the number of women in top editorial positions in 2024 is just 6%, the same as it was in 2020.

Another recent study from the institute, Race and leadership in the news media 2024: Evidence from five markets, points out that the percentage of editors of color remains below the percentage of people of color in the populations of the countries analyzed (Brazil, Germany, South Africa, United Kingdom and United States).

Only 23% of the top 75 editors of the 100 media brands covered are people of color.

In Brazil, as has been the case in the last three years, none of the media in the sample used in the study has a person of color as editor in chief.

The future doesn't look any brighter in terms of gender and racial equality. 

According to the Reuters Institute, projections indicate that gender parity may only be reached in 2074. However, more cautious projections (taking into account the average percentage of women over these five years in ten markets) indicate that, at the current rate, there will never be equality.

The same happens in the case of race.

“Keeping racial and ethnic diversity at the forefront of industry conversations and within newsrooms, especially at trying times for news organizations, will not happen without an express intention and commitment to do so. While many continue to work hard to make this happen, it is not clear from our most recent data that progress is still being made, and there is a real risk that we will see further stagnation or backsliding,” reads the report on race and leadership.

Both investigations are by  Dr Kirsten Eddy, Dr Amy Ross Arguedas, Mitali Mukherjee and Prof. Rasmus Kleis Nielsen.


Low consumption of media led by women


The work of mapping the gender of top editor positions in media was sampled from South Africa and Kenya, from Africa; Hong Kong, Japan and South Korea, from Asia; Finland, Germany, Spain and the United Kingdom, from Europe; the United States, Mexico and Brazil, from the Americas.

In the case of Brazil, the percentage has shown a considerable increase since last year (from 13% to 23%). However, the report clarifies that this may be due to an update to its data set that affected its coding.

“We managed to find additional/better information this year that led us to change the person we had identified as the director of a specific brand in Brazil (previously a man, and which we updated with a woman). Therefore, the coding of the gender of the leadership for that brand changed, but not because there has been a change in the management of the organization, but because we made a correction. So, the increase in the percentage in Brazil was mainly due to that and not because there was a recent change in leadership,” Ross Arguedas explained to LatAm Journalism Review (LJR).

Latin America continues to have the lowest percentages of online news users who consume information from at least one media outlet led by a woman. Brazil remains at 27% and Mexico went from 18% to 17% in the last year.

Finland, South Korea and South Africa are at the top, each exceeding 70%.

“Less than half of users accessed news from at least one major media outlet led by a woman. The average of the 12 markets is 44%: this is a slightly lower number than what we recorded when our survey began in 2020 (49% in ten places),” the report says.


Without clear causes


The data collected by these studies allow researchers to document the situation and trends over time, but not determine causes, as they explained to LJR.

The lack of progress on equity “offers support to the concern expressed by some in the industry that diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives focused on race and ethnicity are losing steam and lagging behind efforts to reduce gender disparities,” the report on race and leadership says.

As Ross Arguedas explained, the problem of underrepresentation in terms of gender already exists at the professional level and is magnified in leadership positions.

In the case of the low percentage of women in leadership positions, it cannot be attributed solely to a lack of women practicing journalism and it is likely that there are additional barriers that prevent or discourage women journalists from occupying editorial leadership positions, according to the researchers.

“What is clear is that the underrepresentation of women in the top leadership of the Mexican media that we found this year is not an anomaly, but a continuation of what we have found in previous years,” Ross Arguedas said.

“Generating a change in something that seems to be the norm would require an express will and a true commitment at the industry level and at the moment we do not see any evidence of that,” she said. “Changing that trend will require an intention and a strategy, within the organizations and perhaps at an industry level... Otherwise, we will probably continue to see more of the same.”