|Written by Goga, Farhana|
The Apartheid government used legislation to inhibit the economic advancement of people of colour ensuring that the labour force has historically been a migratory black class. Labour was strictly controlled and segregated into townships (Kraak 1996). Access by people of colour to jobs and economic resources (land, capital and technology) was restricted through laws and regulations. The repercussions were that in the early 1990ís, this country had an oversupply of black unskilled labour and a shortage of blacks and females in skilled, professional and management positions. Many skilled women did not even enter the job market and many black women entered at a very low level. In 1993, blacks owned only 2% of the total assets of the private sector. Whites held 90% of the
top managerial positions in the economy (Innes 1993). Further, the government budget enhanced the development of whites through education, health facilities and housing. Added to this was the demeaning of African culture and values and the adoption of white values and patterns of behaviour as the norm (Nkuhlu 1993:11). This made it very difficult for blacks to penetrate the centres of power in this country. With the recognition that change had to occur, there was a crisis in the labour market. Legislation, minimal government budgets for blacks and the lack of an inclusive culture, placed blacks and women at a disadvantage (Nkuhlu 1993; Sikhosana 1993&1996).
Presently, blacks own 16% on the JSE alone (Businessmap report 1999). White males continue to dominate top and senior positions.
Discussions and literature are readily available on the issue of race. Researchers have however largely neglected the question of gender equality. Thus, there is a national need to explore issues of gender in industry, and in the media industry in particular. This national need ties in with the broader international emphasis by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO).
UNESCO has in the past years been involved in exploring the distribution of gender within media organisations worldwide and the role that women play within the media industry in general. Media is an important source of inquiry as it is a site of struggle. The mass media should not only report on events, legislation and issues of interest, but should also be an example of how one can address these points of tension in society. These UNESCO studies found that there has been an increase in the demographic representation of women in media companies. In some countries women are even in the majority, however, they do not hold positions of power and decision-making. Men continue to dominate the decision-making positions in the media industry (UNESCO 1987).
South African feminist scholars have historically been attracted to Marxist feminism (Hendricks and Lewis 1994). This is because of its emphasis on the close interaction of class, race/ethnicity and gender (Mannathoko 1992). While studies conducted have examined race, gender and affirmative action in South Africa, very few studies have explored the state of media specifically.
In 1996, Jeanne Prinsloo identified three areas that need addressing in relation to women in the media, namely: the portrayal of women in the media, the coverage of womenís issues, and the representation of women in the industry. She researched the first two. She found that the portrayal of women as sex objects or as mothers/nurturers and in the private/affective mode rather than
the public/rational mode reserved for men predominated. The media validated the stereotypes and the audience, it was believed, internalised these.
Susan Manhando (1994) and Karen Jackman (1998) focused on the third issue. Both their studies explored the distribution of women across categories in specific companies. Manhando focused on the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) and Jackman focused on the Independent Newspapers in Natal.
The role that women play in the media is an international debate and issue of concern. Further, the socio-historical context in South Africa makes the present government policies and their implementation important aspects to observe societal change. Most topical then, is the role of the media amidst all this change.
Against this background, it is important to investigate the ways in which affirmative action has been implemented in terms of the new Equity Act, 1998. Such an investigation should also explore the historical and current opportunities given to women of different racial groups. The specific objective of this research project was to analyse movements under way since 1994 with the aim of addressing racial and gender imbalances in the work place in print and broadcasting organisations in South Africa. It was also to analyse whether all gender and race groups have been and are being incorporated equally in the process of transition, at all levels within the industry.
The process of change is a potential strain on management and staff. With the excitement of new-found opportunities, comes the added pressure to produce and perform in an unfamiliar situation (Leresche1993). During this process (of change), it may be difficult to allow people sufficient opportunities to discuss their experiences and hence address the needs of staff. There may be feelings of isolation or perhaps camaraderie, which go unacknowledged. In this light, not only the race and gender distribution of employees, but also staff experience of the training, benefits and salaries, allocation of assignments, treatment by management and issues of sexual harassment and discrimination have to be examined. Such an analysis provides an indication of the state of and the needs of the media industry. Further, this analysis is necessary to map general trends and offer policy suggestions to the industry. Workshops, discussing the findings and hence concerns, will occur. These workshops will also aim at raising gender awareness and hence, how individuals are constituted as gendered- beings. The study also hopes to aid in addressing problems experienced and to facilitate the creation of a healthy environment by providing equal opportunity for all.