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How to cover elections with gender perspective

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  • Do you treat male and female candidates equally in your coverage? Although it may seem like a simple question, not all journalists ask it.
  • Having a gender perspective when covering an election will allow us not to fall into gender stereotypes when reporting on the candidates, evaluate the impact of the policies they propose and explain the issues related to gender issues with data and context.
  • This article is part of a special with recommendations for journalists on how to cover the elections by Chequeado, IJNet, ICFJ and Factchequeado.

There are many angles to an election that journalists take on in their reporting: the candidates and the top issues they differ on, to name just a few. But there are issues that are transversal to the different aspects. One of them is gender. 

Incorporating a gender perspective in your coverage of an election entails keeping in mind the many inequalities that may exist on account of gender. For instance, women candidates for office are often treated differently than their male counterparts. The same is typically true of candidates who are part of the LGBTQ+ community. 

Historically, women candidates have also been questioned more on their private lives and families, on topics like who will take care of their children should they win. 

Along the same lines, women’s ambition tends to be penalized in ways that men’s isn’t. There has been a propensity to analyze their kindness, too.

It’s important to ask ourselves regularly whether we are treating the men and women candidates equally in our coverage. We all harbor some biases; we need to proactively recognize them, and adjust our reporting accordingly. When covering women candidates for office, again ask yourself: would your reporting be the same if the candidate were a man? 

Keep in mind, too, that female candidates tend to come under more fire on social media. In many cases, and in contrast again with their male colleagues, these attacks are focused more on their character rather than their proposals or ideas.

Another key aspect to consider is the way in which topics linked to gender issues are treated. In all cases, providing necessary context for your audience is critical.

Wage inequality is one good example: by using data to report on the issue, you can highlight differences that may exist in different areas of the economy. This will enable you to move beyond isolated cases and anecdotes, and instead demonstrate the pervasiveness of the problem. 

There are many issues for which there is no good gender-disaggregated data, or other detailed information, such as specific data on transgender people. This can make it difficult to assess the magnitude of some phenomena, or to evaluate the impact of certain measures on specific demographics. In these cases, pointing out the lack of data can at least raise awareness of the problem, even if it cannot be quantified. 

It is also important to be ready to debunk mis- and disinformation circulating on social media or put forth by a candidate. In many countries, for example, disinformation circulates about abortion, like content that misrepresents the most commonly used methods by showing dramatic images of procedures that are not actually conducted. These misinformations have been denied many times, but there are cases in which candidates take them up when campaigning. Verifying the information before repeating a candidate’s assertion will help limit the spread of disinformation. 

It is also relevant to show audiences what is at stake when it comes to gender-related issues. Candidates’ stances on these issues, whether it be parental leave policies or access to contraceptives, among others, will impact large swaths of the population. 

If you come across an issue that at first glance does not appear linked to gender, ask oneself – and the candidates – how it may affect gender inequality. One such case is care policies. Take, for instance, the construction of kindergartens, which may be presented as a school measure, but also affect the possibility of women to participate in the labor market. 

It is important when covering issues during elections to analyze how they will affect different demographics, including women and members of the LGBTQ+ community. Incorporating a gender perspective in your election coverage will mitigate the likelihood of gender stereotypes taking hold, and enable you to better evaluate the full scope of candidates’ proposed policies and their impacts.


This resource is part of a toolkit on elections reporting and how to spot mis- and disinformation, produced by IJNet in partnership with Chequeado and Factchequeado, and supported by WhatsApp.

Fecha de publicación original: 31/07/2023



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