Gender Equality and Media - Counteracting structural gender discrimination through equal representation of women and men in media

University essay from Handelshögskolan i Stockholm/Institutionen för marknadsföring och strategi

Abstract: The public debate on gender equality has gained traction in Sweden in recent years and there has been a pivotal increase in the number of women holding positions in the boards of Swedish stock market companies. A strong opinion argues that media is not taking its responsibility in reflecting the on-going societal change since women are often reduced to stereotypical portrayals, which may inhibit the stride, or at least dampen the pace, toward gender equality in society. Legislation may inhibit discriminatory actions, but counteracting structural gender discrimination calls for a deeper understanding of the subconscious processes behind discriminatory behavior, and previous research point in different directions. This study applied an experimental method, building on the Saying-is-Believing paradigm, to investigate whether women are structurally discriminated against in the public sphere, and if so, whether this kind of discrimination can be affected by exposure to counter-stereotypical portrayals of women, examining the dimensions of warmth and voice. Findings from 164 Swedish high school students suggest that women are only being discriminated against by men. Furthermore, this study was the first of its kind to find an actionable way to counteract structural gender discrimination in the sense that men were less prone to exhibit discriminatory behavior after exposure to counter- stereotypical women being talked about by others. Last, perceived warmth was found to make women less prone to exhibit discriminatory behavior.

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