Male domination is stifling the rise of women in the media

Friday March 10 2017

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Today, I am going to speak my truth. I have, for a long time really tried to be likeable but likeable is boring... and too missionary.

But first, a little story. When I was growing up, there was nothing I wanted more than to become a journalist and a columnist. My father was a huge fan of Wahome Mutahi and I would watch him reduced to teary laughter as he read the Whispers column.

I could have been too young to understand Wahome (he died while I was in primary school) but that did not mean I was too young to dream. So it was no biggie when I finished high school and knew what I wanted to do in life. I was going to write.

And people were going to know me for my writing. I guess it is safe to say that I am sort of living a childhood dream. So, why am I unhappy? you ask.

The media are usually at the frontline advocating for women’s rights. Oh yes, we are very aggressive in covering women; we dedicate acres of newspaper space for special days like International Women’s Day, which, incidentally was marked this past week. We commission commentaries and stories about the under-representation of women in Parliament, we scream ourselves hoarse about the fact that there is not a single female elected governor or senator in Kenya.


Simply put, Kenya’s media are the number one feminist institution in the country. However, I use the word "feminist" advisedly, only to mean an institution that advocates for equal rights for men and women.

But should it not go further than this? Plainly speaking, the industry does not treat its women as well as it should.

The media industry that is so keen on articulating women’s issues. But the media are one of the most male-dominated industries in the country. There are fewer that have sidelined their female workers.

The irony is, the same media that shout about how few women we have in boardrooms (in other industries) are the business with the fewest women on its boards and management. Our systems are patriarchal. It will be a miracle to find a woman in top management. We have nobody to look up to because the older women before us are voiceless and outnumbered.

In all my years as a journalist, never have I seen a woman in media and said “I want to be like her”. The jobs we want, the jobs that truly make a difference, are a reserve for a particular gender.

What we are left with is a bunch of disillusioned, underpaid and overworked female workers fast hurtling into their sunset years, with nothing to show for their years of labour. God forbid, that I become one of those!

I hate to bore you with statistics, but a 2014 report on the State of Media in Kenya published by Media Policy and Research Centre shows that 72 per cent of journalists are male and only 28 per cent are female. The number of women in media management today is much smaller.

I am not asking for affirmative action. We don’t want tokenism. I just want to work in an industry that recognises women, an industry that looks beyond our curves and takes us seriously.