Sony Pixel Power calrec Sony

Women in media: Confronting the confidence gap


A confidence gap is a constant theme when discussing the lack of women in leadership positions in media. Why do women feel that they dont merit their success more often than men? Marium Chaudhry, founder of The Current in Pakistan, is a successful media entrepreneur who has faced this conundrum. We give ourselves far, far less credit than the men that we are actually better than, she says.

After 12 years as a producer for a prime news channel in Pakistan, Marium set up digital media platform, The Current, to attract a younger content-savvy consumer to news coverage - a market proving difficult for traditional Pakistani media to crack. In just two years, the platform boasts almost 300K YouTube subscribers.

But Marium admits her example is rare. Women still face considerable barriers to full participation at work in Pakistan, she says. Forty per cent of educated women in the country are also without jobs.

At Thomson Foundation, we are tackling these issues through projects in Pakistan and through our new initiative, The Bettina Fund, recently launched in Kenya.

In the first in a series of personal reflections by women, Marium discusses her solutions.

By Marium Chaudhry

There is one excuse given when someone questions the lack of women in senior leadership in news organisations in Pakistan. Investing time and effort in training women doesn't pay off because they eventually leave after getting married and/or having children. There should be no excuses for not having women in senior management. The focus should instead be: how do we make women stay?

When women lead, they lead by understanding the message that the story is sending out and the repercussions it might have. In a country like Pakistan, where the rights of women are frequently trampled upon, it is important that the stories that affect women are well thought out before they are reported.

When men lead (and I'm not saying they don't know what they are doing), they are sometimes unable to see the subliminal messaging of the report - when the story is no longer about the rape but about the clothes the woman was wearing, not about the murder but about why she was at the murderer's house. When this happens, the narrative it sets becomes problematic. Women at the helm would make sure the story remains on track for justice and doesn't become about the woman and her choices.

In a recent example of misreporting, a young woman was murdered and beheaded allegedly by her male friend in the capital, Islamabad. Noor Mukadam's case caused uproar in Pakistan and the media narrative remained steady against the murder. But slowly, comments started to seep in: why had she gone to see him? Why didn't she tell her parents where she was?

When the case was at its height, a report came out on a big media platform that claimed that Noor had spent the night with the alleged murderer. The way the story read, it seemed as if Noor had been with the murderer out of her free will. I called up the reporter and after an hour, he understood what I was trying to say. The story was subsequently edited.

This is just one example of how a woman at senior level in the media can cause change. At The Current, we have more women employees than men and we have never once, in two years, had any gender discrimination or harassment issues, despite having people with varying political and social views.

When you have an inclusive environment, gender fades away. To achieve that you have to have more women, you have to make it OK for women and men to take the day off to manage their kids, and you have to be open to them bringing their children into the office. Mental health days are important, too, if they have difficult societal pressures.

Women spend their whole careers trying to prove themselves and if you create an environment where they don't have to, they will be more confident and in turn, more productive.

There is only one way to break women to the top. The men have to make space and by that, I mean real space. A woman can push through and make it to the top but if she doesn't have the support of the men around her, it won't work.

It might be different for other countries but this is true for Pakistan. I have been very lucky to have very supportive male colleagues who have always encouraged me to push ahead but even then, it has not been easy. I was never fearful of losing my job but it took me a long time to appreciate and accept how good I actually am at my job.

There is only one way to break women to the top. The men have to make space and by that, I mean real space.

Marium Chaudhry, founder, The Current, Pakistan

And thats the first step. Women must believe they are better and believe they deserve more and then push themselves to get what they deserve. That will to push is the hardest part because there is a fear of losing your job or being laughed at. But there is not one woman who, in the long run, will say that she regrets asking for what she deserves.

In 2018, when I was told that I was heading the general election transmission for a Pakistani news network, I was also told there would be backlash against me. When I was told this, I felt fear. It was great to have that recognition, yes, but there was also fear that I would need management to back me so people would accept that I was the one in control.

I didnt manage to shake off the fear as well as I should have. But there was one instance in which I had a very public argument with a very senior anchor who was refusing to accept my directions. I stood my ground, so did he. We both took a break from each other and then went back to being the colleagues that we were. I remember that incident vividly because it reflected everything I felt as a woman - insecure and under-confident.

But what remains of that incident is not the fear, but
See more stories from thompsonfoundation

More from Thomson


Valley Voices: Empowering women in rural Pakistan

The finale of the third Valley Voices project saw women journalists and writers gain confidence in writing about some of the more controversial topics facing wo...


Connect 6: Thomson Foundation launches mentor programme

Take six of the brightest young journalists and connect them to six of the best in the industry and you have the recipe for Connect 6', a new, world-class ...


Unique new course on the art of writing news analysis

You're a journalist and news breaks that Pele, arguably the greatest footballer the world has ever known, has died. A colleague in your newsroom is assigned...


A mobile masterclass for South African award winners

Two former winners of the Vodacom Young Journalist of the Year award in South Africa have finally been treated to their prize of an all-expenses paid trip to Lo...


Why female journalists in Pakistan don t like coffee

Sabin Agha is a Pakistan-based documentary filmmaker, multimedia journalist and a blogger. She has been teaching women journalists at Tribal News Network (TNN)...


Yashraj Sharma, Young Journalist Award 2022 Winner

Yashraj Sharma is the interim editor of the online news portal of The Kashmir Walla. He is the winner of the Thomson Foundation's Young Journalist Award 202...


Yashraj Sharma, Young Journalist Award 2022 Finalist

Yashraj Sharma is the interim editor of the online news portal of The Kashmir Walla. He is a finalist in Thomson Foundation's Young Journalist Award 2022. ...


Jyoti Yadav, Young Journalist Award 2022 Finalist

Jyoti Yadav is a journalist from New Delhi, working for India's fastest growing news website The Print. She is a finalist in Thomson Foundation's Young ...


Carlos Ral Kestler, Young Journalist Award 2022 Finalist

Carlos Ra l Kestler is a 23-year-old journalist from Guatemala. He is a finalist in Thomson Foundation's Young Journalist Award 2022. Every time a tyre t...


Empowered - a year on from winning the Young Journalist Award

One year ago, I woke up and was surprised to find out the great news that I was selected as the winner of Thomson Foundations Young Journalist Award 2021. This ...


How to write news stories better

Ewen Macaskill introduces the second in his series of news writing courses for the Thomson Foundation - Advanced Writing: The art of storytelling Storytelling...


New safety course for Ukrainian journalists

During a time of war, it's essential that journalists are prepared for any eventuality, however unlikely. With that in mind, Thomson Foundation has respon...


Revealing the 2022 Young Journalist Award finalists

It has been tough three weeks for the panel of judges at the UK Foreign Press Association (FPA) who had the unenviable task of selecting three finalists for the...


Environmental journalism courses now available in Arabic

Three landmark environmental training courses devised by the Thomson Foundation have been translated into Arabic as part of a major push to guide and inform loc...


Young Journalist Award shortlist revealed

A remarkable number of entries arrived from all over the world for this years Young Journalist Award - Cameroon to Colombia, Ukraine to Uganda and Egypt to Ecua...


Why Pakistan needs more women leaders

This article is written by Hudaibia Iftikhar, a blogger working in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province of Pakistan. Despite being highly educated, she holds a ...


Western Balkans footprints: Innovation in media training makes an impact

Running a media organisation in the Western Balkans (WB) is far from easy. A region beset by instability, corruption with challenges to media freedom which prov...


WhatsApp misinformation course goes viral

A digital learning course on mis and disinformation delivered via the messaging platform WhatsApp has gone viral in Sudan. The first seven days after publicat...


Why the environment crisis doesn t make news in Serbia

Dina or evi is a journalist with the Centre for Investigative Journalism of Serbia (CINS). She has won a number of national and international awards for her w...


Fresh perspectives: Young Journalist Award 2022

Thomson Foundation is celebrating 60 years of promoting excellence in journalism and to mark the occasion, we're offering six rising stars the chance to con...


Finding Africa s new voice

Hello, can you hear me? The zoom screen springs to life and the responses quickly follow. Yes, we can. Good morning . The greetings come from Kenya, Nigeri...


A new chapter in a migration story

The crisis in Ukraine has again focused world attention on the plight of refugees and mass migration. It has also challenged journalists to report on the issue ...


Changing the way news and stories about Africa are told

The moment you see your byline next to a story is a magical moment for any journalist. It brings with it a sense of relief, pride and hope that you'll get n...


International success for Montenegrin mobile journalist

Success in our training programmes is measured in many ways but one of the most rewarding is reading or watching powerful stories produced by young journalists ...


Shifting the focus: Sudan on the edge of change

A pioneering band of creatives in Sudan are promoting social change through photography. The Thomson Media training for digital media entrepreneurs formed part ...


Telegram course: Reacting to a chemical attack

Chemical and biological weapons may be banned but that has not stopped them being used in recent conflicts and for journalists reporting on the war in Ukraine k...


A vote of confidence: Empowering women politicians in Gagauzia

The look of politics in Gagauzia, the small autonomous territory in southern Moldova, is decidedly male. Just two of the 35 members of local parliament are wome...


The Bettina Fund: Transforming women's careers

Eleven women who participated in the inaugural Bettina Fund - Women in Media Leadership programme say it will transform their careers as they have gained confid...


Investigating Moldova: Journalists pick up two awards

Stories on ecology and corruption, developed with Thomson Media support, are among the best investigations of the year. By Dima Stoianov, media support expert ...


Boosting media portrayals of minorities in the Western Balkans

Media in minority languages are relatively well developed, but one segment is significantly neglected in the six countries of the Western Balkans - Albania, Bos...


The definitive guide to podcasting has arrived

Award-winning podcasters and journalists from the UK, India, Kenya, Australia and South Africa have joined forces to create what's believed to be the first ...


Podcasts: Why I love audio

The 7th of January 1991 was a big day for me. It was the day I started working as a radio journalist. As someone who writes for a living, I'm supposed to a...


Persistence pays off for the first ever Malaysian Young Journalist winner

PROFILE: Young Journalist Award 2021 winner It was Kai Hui Wong's persistence in her investigations which led her to reveal abuses of power that convin...


Doing the groundwork: Monika Mondal wins our environmental prize

PROFILE: Young Journalist Award 2021 (environment) winner It's hard to believe that Monika Mondal only started her journalism career last year at the hei...


Who are the Young Journalist Award 2021 finalists?

Three journalists - from India, and for the first time, Colombia and Malaysia - are the finalists for the 2021 Thomson Foundation Young Journalist Award, in par...


We can change our migration narrative - election time is a good time to do it

By Eileen Truax Eileen is a journalist specialising in migration working with Thomson Media on Moving Voices - a project looking at cross border issues affectin...


All fired up: The journalists addressing the climate emergency with words and actions

As world leaders gather for COP26, it is a pertinent time to showcase the work o...


When diversity in newsrooms and newsleadership is not enough

In the latest in a series of personal reflections on womens role in the media, Luba Kassova, author of The Missing Perspectives of Women in News reflects on why...


Meet the new generation of journalists making a mark

It's one of those points in the annual media calendar that early-career journalists await on the edge of their seats - and the moment has arrived. We can ...


Women in media: Confronting the confidence gap

A confidence gap is a constant theme when discussing the lack of women in leadership positions in media. Why do women feel that they dont merit their success mo...


Circular economy: Bringing the intellectually ambitious concept to life

Chances are, most things that currently surround you have been produced following the principles of the linear economy. From the clothes that you wear to the ph...


Why we're all environmental journalists now

Journalists have a unique role to play in changing the narrative around the worlds environmental breakdown and becoming an essential part of the solution. Hear ...


The next generation of leaders in Kenya's media

Twelve women aiming to become future leaders and entrepreneurs in Kenya's media. They were chosen from more than 500 who applied to join the inaugural progr...


Encounters with a Sudanese artist pushing for a brighter future

Profile: Reem Al Jeally, Sudan A matriarchal figure is painted on a concrete wall on Jamhuriya Avenue, next to the University of Khartoum. Her face is not depic...


Truth always wins - spotlight on former Young Journalist winner, Martin Camacho

Applications are open for the Thomson Foundation Young Journalist Award, one of the highlights of the UK's Foreign Press Association Awards. Closes Septembe...


Lessons of a lifetime help to deliver Thomson Foundation's mission

As he retires as Thomson Foundation chief executive - after a decade at the helm - Nigel Baker reflects on his previous 35-year career in journalism and lessons...


News writing: The art of storytelling

Journalism is competitive. It can be a hard occupation to get into and it is just as hard to succeed in it. Thomson Foundations new online course News writing: ...


Covering the escalation of police brutality in Kenya

On the 13th March, Kenya announced its first coronavirus case. The government announced measures to contain the spread. However, some of the measures proved dea...


An environmental twist on this year's Young Journalist Award

We are excited to announce the return of the prestigious Thomson Foundation Young Journalist Award where young journalists, their work and their voices are at t...


The Bettina Fund: Empowering women in media

Women remain underrepresented in leadership roles in media organisations despite a higher proportion of female students graduating from university journalism co...