Commentary. The latest data show that today over 40 percent of Italian journalists are women. Yet somewhere on the way up to the leadership roles, the number of women drops off massively.

90% of Italian newspaper editors are men

Who runs the Italian press? Nine times out of ten, it’s a man.

Looking at the editorial offices of all national dailies, only 16 women are in leadership positions. At 26 major Italian newspapers, the roles of editor-in-chief (direttore), managing editor (vicedirettore) and desk editors (caporedattori) are currently filled by 166 men and only 17 women.

This gender gap is impossible to ignore. The vast majority of the news in circulation is put together by representatives of only one of the two genders. At the same time, there is no shortage of women in the industry: the latest INPGI data show that today over 40 percent of Italian journalists are women. Yet somewhere on the way up to the leadership roles, the number of women drops off massively.

The “glass ceiling”—the unnoticed but rock solid obstacle that blocks the career advancement of members of discriminated groups—is still looming above the heads of Italian female journalists. There are so few women in positions of power working for Italian newspapers that listing them all here is a worthwhile endeavor.

The only female head of a national newspaper is our Norma Rangeri at il manifesto, where she works together with two desk editors, Micaela Bongi and Giulia Sbarigia. The other 13 women, including those at regional papers, are: Antonella Mariani, desk editor of Avvenire; Barbara Stefanelli, managing editor of Il Corriere della Sera; Angela Pederiva and Raffaella Ianuale at Il Gazzettino; Antonella Laudisi at the central office of Il Mattino; Lucia Pozzi and Angela Padrone, desk editors of Il Messaggero; Laura Pacciani, managing editor of La Nazione; Stefania Aloia, Tiziana Testa, Silvia Bernasconi and Cristiana Salvagni, at the central office of La Repubblica; Sabina Rodi, managing editor of Italia Oggi; and Franca Deponti, at the head office of Il Sole 24 Ore. The names and positions were taken from the latest Agenda del Giornalista yearbook (published by the Centro di Documentazione Giornalistica, 2018).

The level of male-centeredness in the Italian media also stands out when compared to other European countries, as evidenced by the research conducted by the European Journalism Observatory. Their study puts Italy at the bottom of the European rankings, including when it comes to the prevalence of female bylines. This is an embarrassing result, made even worse by the fact that until today, three months after the publication of the study, this news has been largely ignored by the Italian media.

Two years ago, La Stampa published an interview with Monia Azzalini, a researcher at the Pavia Observatory, in which she called out the male dominance at the top of Italian journalism. The network that formed around the “Women and Media Appeal,” which managed to achieve the inclusion of gender parity requirements in the RAI-government contract in 2011, is still active today. In April, at the International Journalism Festival in Perugia, one of the workshops was dedicated to the construction of a gender-conscious approach to new information technologies. A notable effort in this direction is the establishment of the Gi.U.Li.A. (Giornaliste Unite Libere Autonome – “United Free Autonomous Female Journalists”) network, which informs and raises awareness about the relationship between gender and media through its website. Thus, the gender bias plaguing our industry is being denounced on several fronts—but the numbers still remain highly unsatisfying.

How can we go beyond merely bearing witness to this situation? As is known, one of the first innovations that feminism brought was the need to “start from oneself” when speaking out (as it can only be a start, which will inevitably lead elsewhere). Accordingly, at our editorial office, we started by looking at ourselves. We could have remained content with pointing out that we are the only national Italian newspaper headed by a woman. We could have highlighted that half the leadership roles on our staff are fulfilled by women, or we could have also referred back to the inspiring feminist tradition of our newspaper. Instead, we decided to put ourselves under close scrutiny.

We investigated the relative proportion of male and female bylines in il manifesto, applying the same methodology as the research conducted by the EJO. Looking at our printed editions from January and February 2018, we counted the male and female names (omitting those authors identifying as queer, trans and non-binary from the study) on the byline in three different sections of the newspaper: page one, the inside pages and the op-ed section. Like the EJO, we deliberately excluded the pages of the cultural section from the study, as these are known to feature mainly women.

We found the numbers that emerged very troubling, which is why we decided to share them with you. On the front page of il manifesto, 67 percent of the bylines were male. In the central part of the newspaper, which includes the Politics, Economy, Society and International section, it gets even worse: 70 percent of the articles were authored by men. In the op-ed section, the community page where we publish opinion pieces, the numbers said that 80 percent of the articles were written by male authors. Thus, at least in this respect, our newspaper is not a happy exception to the situation outlined above.

The presence of women, as expressed in mere numbers, is never by itself enough to change the male-centered culture that still pervades our society. Nevertheless, these numbers speak of nothing short of an emergency—one made even more serious by the fact that it involves the very part of society that should have the role of denouncing it.

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