Promoting gender equality through media coverage: a few ideas to start

We spent some time in Mumbai to conduct a hackathon to build new tools to better evaluate and analyse gender inequalities, and to create more awareness on this issue.

The Global Editors Network & The Indian Express organised a hackathon in Mumbai 17–18 March 2017. The Mumbai Editors Lab was presented in partnership with Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Hacks/Hackers India and the International Center for Journalists with the support of the New Venture Fund for Communications.

On the stage, Ritvvij Parrikh, from the data visualisation company Pykih

This hackathon was part of our Editors Lab programme, now in its fifth season; each team is composed of a journalist, a developer, and a designer. Teams have two days to work on a journalism prototype aimed at solving some aspects of a problem, related to the theme of the hackathon. Teams are competing against each other to build the best project, which they have to pitch in front of a jury of experts. Winners from each event are qualified for the Final, which will take place in Vienna during the GEN Summit 2017.

You can check the list of previous events this season here.

Great workshops call for great prototypes

The dos and don’ts of visualisation with Ritvvij Parrikh

To help and inspire the teams with some data visualisation insights, Ritvvij Parrikh, cofounder of Pykih, a data design company, summarised what can be done in terms of the visual representation of data (and also what should not be done), and insisted on the ways a visualisation can tell different stories even if based on the same data set.

Gender reporting talk with Shobha SV

Shobha SV is a journalist and researcher in sociology. She flew from Delhi to Mumbai to tell the teams about the numerous gender reporting issues, and to give advice to the journalists in the room on how to improve this particular aspect of their reporting. Shobha insisted on how the information can get tainted in the news industry:

“Even if you find someone working in a newsroom that is from a minority, they usually don’t feel very safe. This, and the lack of representation, has an effect on how news get produced, that’s why the question of gender coverage is a very important one.”
Gender reporting talk with Shobha SV

She then captured the audience attention by asking participants to look for images with the search input “rape.” The results are mostly images depicting victims and fear, never really depicting the crimes or the perpetrators. She took an example of an news article reporting a rape case and annotated the page with comments such as “we don’t need this information,” “not relevant,” to show how this kind of neglectful reporting both hurts the victim, and distracts the reader from the crime that has been committed.

Shobha’s participation in the two-day hackathon went beyond her presentation, she acted as one of the jury members, and mentored the participants to give them insightful advice and guidance in the making of their prototypes.

“Always balance quotes between men and women; if you speak about sports, include a quote from a woman.”

Tech tools workshop with Surabhi Malik

Surabhi Malik presented how the different tools of the Google News Lab can help journalists, and how it can be used. She focused her presentation on the theme of this hackathon and, for example, shared with the participants the Google Trends special page built for International Women’s Day.

Screeshot of the Google Trends special page for International Women’s Day

During the presentation she also shared some numbers about women in India, to give some context on the issues local women are facing:

  • India is at the 88th rank of women ministers with 5 of them, or 18,5% in cabinet
  • Women make up only 11.8% of the Lok Sabha (lower House of the Parliament of India): 64 out of 542 member house
  • 11% of the Raiya Sabha (upper House of the Parliament of India): 24 of 245 members
  • In India startup ecosystem, less than 9% of its founders are women
  • Out of the 670 Indian startups that received funding in 2016, just 3% were funded by women alone
  • In 2016, there were only 17 CEO that were women in the top 500 companies listed in India.

Surabhi Malik, mentoring the team from the Hindustan Times

Can great prototypes trigger a change in gender coverage?

After the two days of intense brainstorming and prototyping, teams had to pitch their final idea and prototype in front of the jury. Five minutes for each team, to explain what problem they were trying to solve, who their target audience is, and what kind of technology they used for it.

List of prototypes presented

  1. Arre — A chose-your-own-adventure storytelling format to go through situations that new parents are often confronted with, to highlight the gender role biases—Honey, I raised the kid right!
  2. The Hindustan Times—A tool to analyse the participation of women in a Bollywood movie—How gender neutral is Bollywood?
  3. The Hindu—A project aims to raise political awareness of women by sharing information of the electoral process through quizzes—Parity Project
  4. Social Communications Media Dept, Sophia Polytechnic (1st team)—An interactive questionnaire designed to tackle the issue of sexual harassment at Indian workplaces—Poshwork
  5. India Spend—An attempt to create an engagement with the readers to help them identify their biases and let them find out where they stand—Black or White
  6. WTD News—A mobile app, disguised as a financial learning tool/tracker, to subtly push need-based articles to women—MissManage
  7. Tata Institute of Social Sciences—A game to raise awareness on gender inequality which exist within the Indian society—Take it like a woman
  8. Social Communications Media Dept, Sophia Polytechnic (2nd team)—A public intervention portal to support anti-trafficking in India—Jagruti

And the winner was…

Natasha Kewalramani, Yash Kadakia, Rhea Kewalramani — WTD News

The team from WTD News (Natasha Kewalramani, Yash Kadakia, Rhea Kewalramani) won the competition, thanks to their project called MissManage, a finance tracking tool, to give women more independence on their financial decisions thanks to the push of related news articles. The editor from the team, Natasha Kewalramani, summarises:

What we wanted to build is a mobile tool, which is a safe space for women to learn information on how to handle their own finances, how to manage their money better, to look at news related to finances, and make better decisions about how to manage their assets, how to save for the future, how to provide for their families, how to empower themselves, how to become more confident, how to contribute to the economy a lot better.
Screen from the presentation of WTD News’s project: MissManage

The jury was composed of:

The jury gave a special mention to the prototype built by the team from Hindustan Times: How gender neutral is Bollywood?

We asked the jury member Shobha SV, journalist and researcher in sociology, why WTD News’ was given the crown:

“I think their idea was very good. In India, women are not really encouraged to think about money. It would be great if this prototype is actually built. At an execution level, they were also very good. Technically it was a sound prototype. It is an idea that can be implemented on a larger scale. They scored perfectly on all the criteria: scalability, viability, idea, design.”

When asked about the reasons behind this particular idea, the editor of the winning team, Natasha Kewalramani, explains:

“India is a very patriarcal society: When women aren’t financially empowered, that reinforces the stereotype that women that men should be dominent and take care of women and that women can’t take care of themselves. A lot of women don’t handle their own finances, and turn to their men, their husbands and their families for advice, and that is problem, at least for the emancipation and empowerment of women in India.
The reason we focused on this: We realised that newsrooms for example, cater business, economy, and financial news, more to men than to women. Women don’t necessarily understand the jargon, the clichés… And if they don’t understand it? They turn to men. We did not want that to keep happening because it is a cycle. That’s why we wanted to create this app: Where there is all the information women may need, when they need it.”

The participants in the room also voted for WTD News to receive the Public’s Choice.

Read more about the Mumbai Editors Lab — All the pictures.