In the largest study of its kind to be conducted in Russia, new research by City, University of London, WAN-IFRA Women in News and ANRI-Media investigates the extent of verbal or physical sexual harassment in Russian newsrooms
New research benchmarking the extent of sexual harassment in Russian newsrooms has been released by WAN-IFRA and ANRI-Media. This is part of a larger multi-region study that City’s Department of Journalism has conducted with WAN-IFRA Women in News (WIN).
The results suggest that 22% of media professionals have experienced either verbal or physical sexual harassment.
This mainly affects women – more than 1 in 4 reported experiencing sexual harassment. A fellow employee was the most common perpetrator at 37%.
This prevalence is in stark contrast to the perspective of executives, the vast majority of who did not believe sexual harassment is a problem. Fifteen out of 16 of those interviewed by ANRI-Media reported that they did not believe sexual harassment to be an issue in the media industry, while recognising that it is an issue generally in Russia.
Of those who experienced sexual harassment, only 26% reported it to management, with action being taken just over half the time.
These low reporting rates were cited to be due to fear – fear of retaliation, loss of employment, being negatively labelled or other negative impacts on their job.
Lack of reporting mechanisms perpetuates failure to report
In addition, 17.1% of those who had been harassed said they did not report their experience because their organisation did not have a reporting mechanism.
This lack of process is also reflected by the 14 of 16 executives who said they did not know if their organisations had a sexual harassment policy in place.
Lead researcher Dr Lindsey Blumell, a Senior Lecturer in City’s Department of Journalism, said:
“The Russian report is part of a larger 19-country project between City and WAN-IFRA (Women in News). We have been conducting surveys and in-depth interviews of news personnel to measure the frequency of sexual harassment, how often people report, and how do organisations react.
“In the Russian results, we found that almost all news executives stated sexual harassment wasn't an issue in the Russian news industry.
“Moreover, the majority were confident their staff would report to them if there was a problem. However, the survey data shows that only 26% of cases get reported.”
One of Dr Blumell and her colleagues’ aims for this project is to increase news executives' awareness of what's happening to people in newsrooms, so that they create better policies and implement them, have more open discussions about the issue in senior management meetings, and ultimately create zero-tolerance work environments.
Dr Blumell said:
“Right now, most people don't have the confidence in their news organisation to report. They fear the backlash that will happen to them from co-workers.
“They'd rather stay silent than risk their reputation or job being impacted.
“News organisations must change to prevent sexual harassment from happening and support those who do experience it.”
Media organisations looking for advice on dealing with sexual harassment can find resources through Women In News’ online tool.
The study surveyed 176 media professionals and interviewed 16 executives in Russia in 2021. Read the full results.
The Russian research on sexual harassment in the media industry forms part of an 18-month global study undertaken by WIN and City, University of London that incorporates findings from 19 countries throughout Africa, Southeast Asia, Eurasia, the Arab Region and select countries in Central America.
This study builds on research done in 2018, which identified a gap in available data on sexual harassment in media, specifically in these regions. A visual data tool illustrating country and regional findings will be released later this month.
The study is the latest in an ongoing partnership between ANRI-Media and WAN-IFRA to address inequity in the media industry throughout Russia. ANRI-Media has also translated and distributed a practical guide on how to increase gender balance in news content (Russian version here), as well as a toolkit on managing and mitigating sexual harassment in the newsroom (Russian version here). The two resources were developed by the WAN-IFRA Women in News Programme.
About WAN-IFRA Women In News
WAN-IFRA Women in News (WIN) aims to increase women’s leadership and voices in the news. It does so by equipping women journalists and editors with the skills, strategies, and support networks to take on greater leadership positions within their media. In parallel, WIN partners with media organisations to identify industry-led solutions to close the gender gap in their newsrooms, boardrooms, and content. WIN is currently working with more than 80 media organisations around the world.
About Dr Lindsey Blumell
Dr Blumell is originally from Canada, but has studied, worked, and lived in the US, China, Hong Kong, Denmark, Croatia, Sweden, and now the UK. Before getting a PhD, she worked as a television and radio producer and reporter. Her research interests focus on how human rights are covered in various types of news platforms, focusing particularly on women's rights. She also studies digital news reporting and contextual influences such as hegemony.