On the 27th of February female journalists in Germany signed an open letter to 250 editors and publishers across the country to encourage a quota—a requirement, that 30 percent of staff at Ge
On the 27th of February female journalists in Germany signed an open letter to 250 editors and publishers across the country to encourage a quota—a requirement, that 30 percent of staff at Germany’s media outlets must be women.
The letter was signed by participants of the Pro Quote campaign, who also noted that of the 360 daily and weekly newspapers in Germany, 2 percent of them have editors which are women, according to a report from The Guardian. “It’s time to change that,” the group wrote according to The Guardian. “We demand that within the next five years, at least 30% of the executive jobs in editorial departments should be filled by women, and on all levels of the hierarchy. Can you manage that?”
Gabor Steingart, the male editor in-chief of the financial daily Handelsblatt, made a 30 percent quota at the publication which prompted the letter. “Women are not the problem, but the solution,” Steingart told The Guardian. “It’s not just about fairness but it also makes economic sense.”
Ines Pohl, one of the editors who signed the letter, said on the Pro Quote site to not be afraid of quotas. “Don’t be afraid of quotas,” Pohl wrote according to The Guardian. “I’m a quota woman. For me it’s no problem. Because of [my publication] taz’s women target, I have been able to finally show what I’m made of. I’m sure the same would be true for many other women.”
But, the question is if a media quota can work in the UK. Helen Lewis, the deputy editor of the New Statesman, told Kettle that the targets were not a bad idea, citing a voluntary pledge published in Broadcast magazine to have organisations take a 30 percent quota in women has expert commentators. “It’s a way of focusing the minds of the commissioning editors and bookers that there is a problem, and encouraging them to widen the talent pool rather than phoning up the same person they’ve asked a dozen times before,” Lewis said, adding that the same conversation arose when more female bylines across newspapers and more women involved on comedy programmes. “Showing people the hard numbers of how low female participation is can make them realise that things need to change,” Lewis said.
But, Lewis adds, those could be counterproductive. “My feeling with quotas has always been that they are a rather brute force way of effecting change, and they can be counter-productive in creating the perception that women/ethnic minorities have not succeeded on merit,” Lewis said, adding that there should be several things that should be tried before going to a quota. “The first would be voluntary pledges. The second would be look at WHY women aren’t well-represented in those positions,” Lewis said. “In the newspaper industry, for example, I think it has a lot to do with the lack of flexible working, the long hours and the job insecurity. My perception is that there are plenty of twentysomething women in journalism, but that many leave when they become mothers, and not all of those return.”
Lewis adds that the best solution is enacting family-friendly legislation to guarantee rights including maternity leave, flexible working hours, and affordable childcare to guarantee that more women could enter the industry. “When those kind of changes were made in parliament for MPs’ working hours, it encouraged more women to stand for election,” Lewis said.