Arab News boosts female staff in drive to become first Saudi ‘gender-balanced’ newspaper

Arab News' Jeddah bureau. The newspaper aims to have a 50:50 gender-balanced newsroom by 2020. (AN Photo by Huda Bashatah)
Updated 08 March 2019
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Arab News boosts female staff in drive to become first Saudi ‘gender-balanced’ newspaper

RIYADH: The proportion of women working for Arab News rose to more than a third in 2018, moving closer toward the Riyadh-based newspaper’s target to have a 50:50 gender-balanced newsroom by 2020.
The ratio of women working across the global operations — including editorial staff in the Saudi, London and Dubai bureaus, regular Opinion writers and foreign correspondents — stood at 35 percent at the end of 2018.
That compares to 31 percent in 2017 and just 13 percent the previous year, according to Arab News’ “Gender equality meter,” published today.
Arab News last year outlined its aim to become the first newspaper in Saudi Arabia to have a gender-balanced newsroom. The drive — referred to internally as the “50:50 by 2020” initiative — covers all the newspaper’s bureaus and areas of operation.

The increase in the proportion of female staff last year was the result of active recruitment, increased training initiatives, and steps to provide career guidance with the help of the newspaper’s publisher, the Saudi Research and Marketing Group.
Faisal J. Abbas, editor in chief of Arab News, said the newspaper’s “50:50 by 2020” initiative reflected the wider reform drive in Saudi Arabia, part of which is to encourage more women into work.
“Having a diverse newsroom is not about ticking boxes — it is about giving equal opportunities to skilled journalists based in Saudi Arabia and beyond, while also providing training and nurturing young talent within the Kingdom,” said Abbas.
“It is also about serving our community better by doing what we do best — quality, insightful and inclusive journalism.”
“Our ‘50:50 by 2020’ initiative is in line with the positive steps in Saudi Arabia toward giving opportunities to everyone in society, especially the burgeoning youth population.”
Further announcements regarding the progress of the “50:50 by 2020” initiative will be made in the future, along with updates to the Arab News “Gender equality meter.”


News anchors join New Zealand women wearing headscarves for mosque attack victims

Updated 22 March 2019
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News anchors join New Zealand women wearing headscarves for mosque attack victims

  • The AM Show news anchor Amanda Gillies said the gesture 'shows we are united'
  • Newsreaders began broadcasts with Islamic greetings

CHRISTCHURCH: News anchors in New Zealand joined women across the country in wearing headscarves as a show of solidarity on Friday for the victims of last week’s mosques shooting. 

The newsreaders covering the memorial events for the 50 people killed by a white supremacist at two mosques in Christchurch, began broadcasts with Islamic greetings.

They included The AM Show news anchor Amanda Gillies, who said she agonized over whether to cover her hair with a peach-colored scarf.

"There's no way a week ago that I would have, because I would have thought it would have been deemed inappropriate, not right, that I was insulting the Muslim community," Gillies said.

"I'll be honest - I did angst over it today whether I should wear it, because I didn't want to be inappropriate or offend the Muslim community. But I know that they are so welcoming and accepting of it, and I know that a lot of women will wear it today because it just shows that we are united - the solidarity is there, the love and support is there."

Elsewhere, women across the country wore hijabs on an emotional day when the shocked  nation came together to remember those killed.

 A journalist wearing a headscarf as tribute to the victims of the mosque attacks uses her phone before Friday prayers at Hagley Park outside Al-Noor mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand March 22, 2019. (Reuters)

Rafaela Stoakes, a 32-year-old mother of two, said wearing the Islamic head covering gave her an insight into what it means to stand out and feel part of the minority.

On Friday morning she covered all but a few locks of her dark chestnut-coloured hair in a loose red and white scarf, crossed neatly beneath her chin and tucked into a black hiking jacket.

She was one of many women embracing #HeadScarfforHarmony, to make a stand against the hate espoused by the Australian man who killed dozens of worshippers.

Headscarves were also worn as a mark of respect by policewomen and non-Muslim volunteers directing the crowds around the site in Christchurch holding communal prayers on Friday.

Many were wearing a headscarf for the first time.

"It is amazing how different I felt for the short time I was out this morning," Stoakes told AFP.

"There were a lot of confused looks and some slightly aggressive ones," she said.

"I did feel a sense of pride to honour my Muslim friends, but I also felt very vulnerable and alone as I was the only person wearing one."

"It must take a lot of courage to do this on a daily basis."

The gesture caught on nationwide -- in offices, schools and on the streets -- as well as at the ceremonies held in Christchurch to mark one week since the killings at the hands of a self-avowed white supremacist.

Women flooded Twitter, Facebook and other social media -- which played a key role in allowing the gunman to spread his message -- with their images.

Kate Mills Workman, a 19-year-old student from Wellington, posted a selfie on Twitter wearing a green headscarf.

"If I could I would be attending the mosque and standing outside to show my support for my Muslim whanau but I've got lectures and I can't really skip them," she told AFP, using a Maori language term for extended family.

"Obviously this is all spurred on by the terrible tragedy in Christchurch, but it's also a way of showing that any form of harassment or bigotry based on a symbol of religion is never okay," she added.

"As New Zealanders, we have to make a really strong stand."

Although the headscarf has been the subject of contentious debate over gender rights in the Islamic world, for Stoakes the day has been a lesson in how pious Muslim women often do not have the option to melt away into the background when they feel vulnerable.

"We can nod and pretend to agree with people who we are afraid of, or plead ignorance if we feel in danger of confrontation," she said.

"But a Muslim is just right out there. Like a bullseye. Their hijabs and clothing speak before they do."