How this initiative is bridging female leadership gap in Nigerian newsrooms

 How this initiative is bridging female leadership gap in Nigerian newsrooms

For Precious Akutamadu, a correspondent with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Port Harcourt, attending a leadership training in 2022 proved to be a significant life-changer for her who shortly became the Editor of the outlet afterward.

The training, an offshoot of Step-Up for Women in Journalism Initiative (SUWJI), provided her with the opportunity to enhance her leadership skills, leading to remarkable growth and advancement in her career.

The initiative is a not-for-profit organization committed to facilitating a comprehensive understanding of various strategies and techniques for effective leadership for women in the media ecosystem, thus equipping her with the necessary tools to excel in her new role.

Leveraging on the knowledge she gained, Akutamadu was able to improve her communication styles and become more effective in delivering her messages to her colleagues at work. The result was an overall efficiency which accelerated her influence within the newsroom.

A hole in media leadership 

In 2017, a survey conducted on the leadership status of female journalists in Nigeria’s newsrooms, revealed a ratio of 10:2 representations at board and management levels in favor of men.

These findings were cut from 180 respondents within 85 media organizations in 28 Nigerian states.

Not this alone, the Global Report on the Status of Women in the News Media, which examined more than 500 companies in nearly 60 countries, shows that men occupy the vast majority of management roles in most nations. 

The study further found that 73% of the top management jobs are occupied by men compared to only 27% occupied by women. Thus, these reports indicated that among senior professionals, women are nearing parity with 41% of the news-gathering, editing, and writing jobs.

Bridging the gaps

To fill the gaps, Ann Godwin, a media coach, and award-winning journalist, founded SUWJI in 2022 to help women in the male-dominated profession carve out a leadership niche for themselves. She believed that the organization would pose a solution for the age-long lack of female leadership in Nigeria’s newsrooms.

The initiative promotes media excellence among female journalists by serving as a platform for networking and mentorship for young journalists to grow in their careers. 

Although SUWJI has only 15 persons at its inception then, the organization boasts 60 beneficiaries currently in various states across the South-South states of the country. Ann, while explaining how they nurtured them for posterity, claimed that all of them have undergone rigorous training in leadership, pitching, networking, and mentoring for sustainable careers in journalism.

When asked about what motivated her to start the initiative, Ann explained that the muse of building the capacities of female journalists came during Wole Soyinka Center for Investigative Journalism – Female Reporters Leadership Program (WSCIJ-FRLP) in Lagos in 2021 where all the participants were mandated to bring up a female-focused initiative. 

A year after, she launched the project following a series of promotions on several channels, the project seeks to be a network community where beneficiaries were virtually recruited after a critical screening. This changed as other budding reporters reached out to the foundation to indicate their interests after a year of lucid impacts. 

“When I returned to Port Harcourt, I announced the project among my female colleagues and created awareness online. I sent text messages and made phone calls to let the cosmos know the importance of the project. So in August 2021, we held the first training,” Ann recalled. 

Nurturing for the future 

Blessing Ibunge, a journalist for THISDAY Newspaper in Port Harcourt, got the chance of being the sole correspondent for her platform in the entire state after attending the training. 

But her fortunate story doesn’t end there. Ibunge noted that the training has sharpened her reporting skills following an ample lens of exposure she garnered from the initiative and this made her a subject of emulation by her colleagues.

In an interview with CrispNG, Ibunge said: “I’ve not only become an asset to THISDAY [my newsroom] but I’ve also learned how to be a mentor and role model to younger ones from the training.

But not without challenges 

As Ann and her team work on a mission to empower women journalists with prerequisite skills to lead in the media industry, lean resources pose a barricade. 

“We almost crumble as a result of financial pressure but we won’t let this affect our dreams of helping others get impacted. 

“We’ve got big plans – bigger than a stack of newspapers! Unfortunately, funding is eroding it,” Ann explained.

She goes on to add, “Our peculiar challenge is as a growing organization, we are still trying to get funders.”

Despite the challenges, the initiative is still working on ways to expand its training to other parts of the country. 

“I’m proving that the women in this industry are forces to be reckoned with and the inspiration is from all that I have been taught from SUWJI,” Ibunge recounted with a happy heart. 

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