Whether you’re an ad agency or a media outlet, you won’t survive if you’re not inclusive.
Rose Swe, CEO, Mango Media Group, Myanmar


Large disparities exist from country to country with respect to awareness of the value of fostering diversity and inclusion in the workplace. In Myanmar, awareness remains relatively low, and very little data exists about inclusion and gender practices in any sector.

Through MDIF’s work with Myanmar media over the past five years, providing business technical assistance to improve sustainability, we have had the opportunity to observe the extent to which inclusion and diversity are addressed in the media sector.

This has confirmed the broader trend, namely that these are largely unfamiliar concepts. That is why we have incorporated into our capacity building program with Myanmar media a component designed to encourage the development of strategies for incorporating inclusion policies and practices into their operations.

Fostering inclusion in any workplace requires leadership buy-in and, often, a cultural change, all of which takes time. This is as true in Myanmar as in any other country. And just as media elsewhere, Myanmar media leaders are constantly having to juggle multiple competing demands for their time, whether it is striving to improve the quality of their output and to increase the size of their audience, or increasing their potential for long-term sustainability. Having to allocate time and attention to addressing a previously largely unconsidered issue, such as inclusion, can understandably feel like a low priority.

Yet through MDIF’s inclusion program, our goal is to facilitate the establishment of more inclusive policies in the media with which we are working. Not simply because it is a core aspect of good governance, but also because a diverse and inclusive workplace is good for business.

This is not short-term work, and the impact is not always immediately evident. It takes time to take on board new concepts and to find ways of incorporating them into a workplace in an appropriate way. For this to be successful, it is critical that any action taken is determined by the media personnel themselves. The good news is modest changes are taking place, and MDIF is committed to continuing to work with those partners who recognize the value of embedding inclusion into their organizational make up.

In the meantime, we offer this report as a contribution of data and analysis about the current state of the media with respect to inclusion and diversity.

Since late 2015, MDIF has been running an intensive business capacity-building program for media in Myanmar, Myanmar Media Program (MMP), supported by Sida. Phase 2 of this program began in July 2019. Follow this link https://www.mdif.org/our-work/initiatives/myanmar-media-program/ for further details of our work in Myanmar.

Report Highlights

In Good for Business: Creating Inclusive Media Businesses in Myanmar we make the case for incorporating inclusion practices into media operations. MDIF is of the view that it is not only the right thing to do and that it ensures legal compliance, but also that it makes good business sense as, when done well, it improves performance, increases creativity and innovation, and results in better financial returns.

Our inclusion survey, conducted with 35 private media outlets operating in Yangon and in seven ethnic states and five regions, provides up-to-date inclusion and gender data about the sector. Among the findings: while many women work in media (they represent 33% of the combined staff of the 35 outlets surveyed), they are underrepresented in key roles, including senior leadership and frontline journalistic jobs. Medium-sized ethnic media outlets employ the largest percentage of women, followed by small-sized national media. Small and medium-sized media in Myanmar’s regions employ the smallest percentage of women. The percentage of women employed generally decreases as the roles increase in seniority.

In terms of remuneration: outlets led by men generally pay men more than women, whereas outlets with mixed - men, women and/or non-binary - leadership tend to have more gender-balanced salaries. The primary justification offered for higher pay levels for men is that men often have more experience than their women or non-binary counterparts.

The survey also confirms that levels of diversity among staff with regards to disability, LGBT+, ethnicity, religious belief, and age vary widely among media outlets. Survey respondents noted a total of 10 non-binary staff members (1% of the total); one outlet in the ethnic states is co-led by a man and a non-binary person. The survey finds, too, that most outlets do not have inclusion policies or plans.

In addition to the survey findings, we have looked closely at discrimination and employment. Seng Mai, the founding Chief Editor of Myitkyina News Journal, talks about their experience as a non-binary media leader. Muslim freelance journalist and media trainer Kyaw Myo Htun reflects on how people unconsciously and unintentionally say things that he finds hurtful because of his religious beliefs. Myanmar Now webmaster Moe Htet Hlam says because he has lost an arm and a leg people treat him differently, and laments that some businesses want to hire disabled persons only because they think it will be good for their reputation and earnings. Founding Chief Editor of Tachiliek News Agency Cherry Htike says men like hiring attractive women for sales and marketing positions in their media because they think it will increase sales and revenues.

This report also includes the reflections of four senior executives working in the media and advertising sectors about the value of having inclusion policies and practices and the implications of failing to do so. The CEO of Mango Media Group Rose Swe notes that if you are not inclusive when you work in media and advertising, you will not survive. Hakha Post Chief Editor, Van Or, says COVID-19 has taught him the importance of inclusion, creativity and sustainability, and that it is the young people on his staff - especially women – who have stood out as innovators during the pandemic. Because men and women bring different attributes to their jobs, 7Day Online Television Chief Editor Nyein Nyein Naing notes that they create a balance which is good for business. Irrespective of gender, LGBT+ or disabilities, Dawei Watch founding Editor-in-charge Myo Aung notes that individuals have different abilities that can support the survival and growth of an organisation.

We finish the report with some practical advice about how to get started on incorporating inclusion practices into a media business.

Becoming inclusive takes time and work, but as we have explored in this report there are myriad benefits. Most importantly, as MDIF’s gender and inclusion consultant Jane Stageman notes, you will discover that inclusion is good for business when it becomes business as usual.

The Inclusion Challenge

When I worked as the leader of a sales team no one thought I could do it. It was obvious from their attitudes and behaviours that they didn’t respect me. It took me a year to change their mindset. A man of my age, with my level of experience, wouldn’t have faced that kind of discrimination.
Ei Mar Lar, former Sales Director, The Voice Daily

What do we mean by inclusion?

In a 2019 report, the UK Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development (CIPD) offered a useful definition of inclusion: “the extent to which everyone in a workplace, regardless of their background, identity or circumstance, feels valued, accepted and supported to succeed”.

People tend to equate inclusion with diversity, but there is a difference. Put simply: diversity is about difference, whereas inclusion is about belonging. Inclusive organisations have to embrace both if they want to be truly effective.

Diversity focuses on differences in background, identity and circumstance, including demographic differences such as sex, gender, disability, ethnicity, sexual orientation, age and religion. In most societies, these differences have been used as the basis for systemic differentiation, and have often resulted in discrimination, inequality and injustice for the less powerful.

Women, persons with disabilities1, black and ethnic people, lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgender, intersex, queer and asexual (LGBT+2) and older people, are all likely to face more challenges when it comes to inclusion, whether it means being treated equally or feeling excluded. For individuals in these groups to feel valued, accepted and supported, they must first be convinced that their organisations understand, and are committed to, tackling discrimination. Examples of commitment include practices that promote and enable equal rights and opportunities, as well as efforts to actively seek out and listen to diverse voices on organisational matters.

1The term used by disability organisations and the law in Myanmar.

2An umbrella term for the gay community. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, with the + used as an all-encompassing term for the expanding range of abbreviations that describe different identities.

What is discrimination?

According to the Myanmar Centre for Responsible Business, a non-profit initiative that encourages responsible business activities, discrimination encompasses distinctions, exclusions, restrictions or preferences that hinder the equal enjoyment of human rights. It does not only mean inequality, but also the perpetuation of harm by denying individuals or certain groups their rights. Prejudice is often at the heart of discrimination, based on concepts of identity, including the need to identify with a specific group.

Women, persons with disabilities, people from ethnic groups, and LGBT+ people all experience discrimination globally, and Myanmar is no exception. Many individuals from these groups also experience multiple, or intersectional, forms of discrimination; for example, a woman with disabilities. Discrimination in society generally affects, and is reinforced by, treatment and arrangements linked to employment and workplaces.

What is the impact of discrimination on employment?


There’s a reason why a lot of women do sales and marketing for media companies. It’s often the policy. They want women more than men. They view women as objects. I’ve heard men saying that if they have hot women doing sales and marketing then their journal will be popular.
Cherry Htike, co-founding Chief Editor, Tachileik News Agency

The most recent and controversial Myanmar census, conducted in 2014, revealed that only 52% of women of working age were in paid employment, compared to 80% of men, and that three-quarters of the women who were not economically active were engaged in domestic work. This reflects traditional gender norms in Myanmar, and found globally too, that women are responsible for domestic life and that men are the providers, the leaders and decision makers. Women workers are often concentrated in the informal sector, which is unregulated and therefore not covered by social security. This includes domestic work, selling food in marketplaces, and work on family farms. Rural women have less access to education, employment, and health care.

The 2014 census also shows an occupational concentration that is influenced by gender roles. Women comprised the majority of people working for family businesses (60+%), as teachers (80%), and in the health and social work sector (62%). Only 10% of the people working in construction were women, and only 3% in transport. The census highlighted that women who achieve management positions tend to be concentrated in specific types of support functions. This is known globally and in Myanmar as the glass ceiling. As a result, women do not end up with, or are not perceived to have, the right mix of managerial skills and experience to perform strategic management leadership functions. Similarly, when compared to men, women business leaders tend to be concentrated in micro and small businesses in the informal economy. The census also found that businesses owned by women tend to be smaller than those belonging to men, and less profitable.

The material implications of this gendered vertical and horizontal division of labour at work are substantial, with men and women awarded different wages, primarily because their labour input is valued differently.

Persons with Disabilities

Because I’m missing an arm and a leg, people often think I can’t work as hard or as fast. It doesn’t matter that I’m creative and hard-working – they assume I’ll be slow and need a lot of support. What they don’t realise is that I’ve taught myself how to do everything they can do. Everyone fails – it doesn’t matter how many arms and legs you have. But when you’re disabled you work harder to succeed and you appreciate every success, however small. You have to be careful though. Some people want to hire disabled persons because they think it will be good for their reputation and their business, and that they’ll get benefits. That’s just as bad as refusing to hire them. I’m lucky because I have a good job and I can support my family. But many disabled persons don’t have jobs, even when they have the right skills. Businesses still have a long way to go to include us.
Moe Htet Hlam, Webmaster, Myanmar Now

Much like other countries, Myanmar’s 2014 census revealed that persons with disabilities, aged 15-64, were less likely to participate in the labour force, compared to those without a disability. Only 47.2% of people with a mild walking disability, for example, participated in the labour force, compared to 67.6% of those without a disability - a 20% gap.

According to the Myanmar Federation of Persons with Disabilities, organisations representing people with disabilities have collectively documented their continued exclusion and discrimination within their communities, families and in society as a whole. As a result of discrimination linked to education and vocational training, for example, disabled people lack skills necessary for employment. The fact that employers are often not prepared to make needed adjustments for people with disabilities also results in lower wages, no job status and having to work below their potentials, and being exploited. People with disabilities living in rural areas have more restricted access to appropriate education, training opportunities and employment than those in urban areas, where the few services available are concentrated. Some organisations have, however, taken concrete steps to better integrate disabled staff. The Voice Daily, for example, moved to a new office where all of its staff could work on the same floor with lift access, making it easier for people with physical disabilities. Mizzima reached out to a school for disabled in Yangon and offered internships to students interested in working in the media. According to Mizzima General Manager Aye Thet Hlaing, 15 people have done internships so far and seven have been hired as full-time staff.


I don’t identify myself as male or female. I’m non-binary. I don’t let people box me into their stereotypical beliefs. I don’t care what they say behind my back and I don’t let their words affect me. I’m a good human being with strong moral and ethical values. That’s how I lead my media business.
Seng Mai, Chief Editor, Myitkyina News Journal

The protection against discrimination in Article 348 of the Myanmar constitution does not extend to sexual orientation or gender identity. Historically, LGBT+ people have experienced significant levels of social stigmatisation that is barely starting to ease, even in some of the country’s larger cities. According to 2019 research by leading LGBT+ rights organisation, Colors Rainbow, the various ways discrimination has been experienced in Myanmar workplaces include: a reluctance to disclose sexual identities in the workplace; being the subject of probing and jokes by colleagues with regards to sex lives and experiences; and exclusion from meetings, information and social events. Transgender groups in Yangon also report facing discrimination in their workplaces due to their appearance and because of dress codes.

According to a 2017 study by the Myanmar Centre for Responsible Business, LGBT+ people who are open about their sexuality often report that the jobs most available to them are in the entertainment industry and beauty salons, or as sex workers or spirit mediums (nat kadaw). Transgender youth tend to have a particularly difficult time due to the mismatch between their sex and gender, the lack of photo identification that matches their gender, or discrimination by employers and co-workers. Transgender men who manage to obtain jobs performing physical labour are reportedly only paid at so-called women’s rates, which are lower than men’s. Lesbian women report being given the same workloads as men with regards to physical labour, but nonetheless being paid at the lower women’s rate, and that they often struggle to find and retain employment.

Ethnic Minorities

Because I’m Muslim I’ve faced many restrictions during my 13 years as a journalist. I’ve missed important assignments, such as covering Rakhine and the Meiktila conflict. I was always eager to go but my media outlet wouldn’t allow it due to safety issues.  Yet I still consider myself lucky because I’ve never faced serious discrimination in my working life, and my close friends and colleagues respect me and my religion. Yet there are times when people forget I’m in the room and they unconsciously and unintentionally say hurtful things. For example, when they debate whether or not they should use the word Rohingya. I’m never sure if I should listen or leave the room. Every single time it reminds me I’m a minority in my own country.
Kyaw Myo Htun, freelance journalist and media trainer

There is a dearth of data dealing with employment discrimination against ethnicities in Myanmar. A 2017 study by the Centre for Diversity and National Harmony in the Ayeyarwaddy Region found that ethnic majority Bamar (Burmans) were more likely to be accepted in workplaces than other officially recognized ethnic minority groups. Citizenship laws do not recognize Chinese, Indian, Nepali/Gurkha or Rohingya as official ethnic groups in Myanmar, which makes it more difficult for them to obtain the ID cards that they need for legal employment. According to a 2017 report by the Myanmar Centre for Responsible Business, official identity documents - Citizenship Scrutiny Cards - indicate religion and ethnicity, and this means that employers have easy access to information that can be used to discriminate in the hiring and treatment of staff in the workplace.

Inclusion as a starting point

2011 research published in the Official Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics shows that prejudicial beliefs come from social and cultural learning, including from parents, teachers, friends, the media, and other sources of socialization, including Facebook, and therefore are often at the heart of discrimination. They are also often tied to historical and/or religious beliefs, so can be entrenched. In Myanmar, for example, 2015 research by the Gender Equality Network NGO shows that the Buddhist belief, Hpon, plays a central role in perpetuating unequal gender relations. Hpon refers to the cumulative impact of past deeds i.e. the belief that power or social position derives from merit earned in previous lives. Prevailing attitudes of pity towards people with disabilities have also been perpetuated, based on the belief that they suffer as a result of mistakes made in a previous life.

The all-pervasive nature of prejudicial beliefs enables those in power in a particular demographic group to consolidate their identity at the expense of the less powerful. In a workplace, this consolidation can occur among colleagues, or among supervisors, managers and leaders, and can result in a hostile work environment manifested by derogatory comments, unwelcome visual or physical conduct, bullying and victimisation, or the more subtle form of dismissing and/or not valuing diverse views and ways of thinking during meetings, teamwork and projects. A reluctance to listen to, and engage, individuals from less powerful social groups in decision-making is a further impact.

According to 2019 research by the UK Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development (CIPD), inclusion can be a vital starting point for organisations that are prepared to challenge the underlying causes of the lack of diversity and discrimination in their own workplaces. Focusing on workplace culture and climate, inclusion starts with a recognition that workplaces are not inclusive for everyone, but that it is possible to create a healthy environment where all employees can work effectively together. For individuals, “workplace inclusion relates to feelings of belonging, having a voice and being valued for your unique and authentic individual skills and abilities”. At an organisational level, “workplace inclusion involves valuing difference, allowing all employees the opportunity to develop, participate and use their voice to effect change, irrespective of their background”.

Being inclusive means achieving this objective for every employee. The first step is enabling equal rights and opportunities for those who face systemic discrimination in society, as well as a voice. The second step is valuing, embracing and energising the unique perspectives, skills and abilities of every employee in creating an effective and healthy work environment for all. The benefits, research suggests, are reduced absenteeism, enhanced job commitment, knowledge-sharing, positive teamwork, and innovation and creativity. Inclusion is, by nature, a challenge for any organisation, yet one that holds great promise for media businesses that wish to improve their outcomes.

Making the Case: Five Reasons Why Inclusion is Good for Myanmar Media Businesses

Inclusion supports a healthy working environment where staff take greater responsibility for their own behaviour and attitudes. Colleagues are starting to understand that they need to change their own mindsets and to be more open and respectful, not just for their own benefit, but also to support their organisation's growth and success.
Nan Paw Gay, CEO, Karen Information Center

The right thing to do

Ethically and reputationally, inclusion is the right thing to do. Equal rights and opportunities should be enshrined in organisational values and supported by a strong commitment to uphold human rights. Myanmar media most commonly understand inclusion in terms of editorial output i.e. ensuring content reflects the full diversity of the population that each media outlet seeks to cover and serve. In addition, media has an educational role to play in informing audiences about inclusion and highlighting its importance in Myanmar society. Ensuring workplaces are accessible and positive environments for everyone is also the right thing to do. Myitkyina News Journal’s Chief Editor Seng Mai says they are tackling the issue from the ground up; for example, by stating in job advertisements that women and people with disabilities are encouraged to apply, and by giving applicants a chance to demonstrate their abilities and skills as part of the recruitment process. According to Seng Mai, this has resulted in more women being hired.

Improved performance

In 2020 we introduced annual staff appraisals for the very first time. Although some staff weren’t used to hearing constructive criticism and found it challenging, the appraisals have helped us understand individual staff differences and have encouraged staff to identify their own training and development needs. Now we have more open discussions about the ways in which each staff member can best contribute to their own success and to that of the team and the organisation.
Sai Aung Hla, Executive-Director, Shan Herald Agency for News

A wide range of international studies, including in 2019 in Gallup and Glassdoor, demonstrate that inclusive practices improve performance and have a positive impact on organisational growth. With the help of inclusion and gender sensitivity training, Myanmar media organisations are starting to recognise these performance benefits, yet this process is understandably a long one. Drawing from their own experiences, the media outlets MDIF surveyed for this report point to specific ways in which inclusion improves performance, including by reducing staff turnover, strengthening talent management, improving problem-solving and decision-making, and empowering staff.

Innovation and creativity

A study published in 2018 of 50 organisations around the world, with a combined staff of one million, concluded that high performing teams are demographically, educationally, and functionally diverse. This combination creates a diversity of thinking that has been proven to enhance innovation. The understanding that diverse values, perspectives and attitudes foster increased creativity and innovation is nascent in Myanmar media. Examples of better outcomes at the outlets where MDIF has worked over the past two years include better designed work premises, successful digital programmes, and improved leadership. Yet much work remains in order to mainstream these concepts and practices.

Better financial returns

While we are unaware of research in Myanmar that has measured the financial benefits of inclusion and diversity, global research does provide useful evidence. According to 2017 research, gender and ethnic diversity are clearly correlated with profitability. The 2019 research by Bahl found that a 1% increase in workforce diversity led to a 35-39% increase in revenues.

Myanmar media are also starting to understand that by hiring more heterogeneous teams they can tap into a wider range of knowledge and networks which, in turn, makes them more appealing to diverse audiences. As the broader audience spectrum expands business opportunities, they are also seeing additional possibilities for revenue growth. For example, women employees are often more familiar with local women’s groups and organisations, while employees of different ethnicities draw on multilingual skills and cultural knowledge to enable access to a wider array of communities. This allows the media they work for to grow their audiences and to increase their revenue potential.

Legal Compliance

The 2008 Myanmar constitution expressly commits to “not discriminate (against) any citizen of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar based on race, birth, religion, official position, status, culture, sex and wealth”.

In 1997, Myanmar ratified the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and, in 2011, the International Covenant on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. In 2015, it also passed the national Law on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Although this latter law introduces a provision for hiring a quota of people with disabilities, this has yet to be implemented, despite pressure from civil society organisations working on this topic.

Myanmar media are generally aware of the need to keep pace with new legislation. This includes the 2015 Law on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the 2012 Minimum Wage law that aim to remove gender discrimination linked to wages, the 2013 Employment and Skill Development Law, and the 2014 Leave and Holiday Act which regulates rights to maternity and paternity leave. Other relevant laws include the 2015 Ethnic Rights Protection Law, 2016 Older People Law, and the draft Prevention and Protection of Violence Against Women law.

The Myanmar Press Council also encourages non-discriminatory management, policies and actions in its media code of ethics: “Media outlets must avoid any discrimination, and derogatory or patronizing references to people’s race, colour, religion, sex, sexual orientation, preference, age, physical or mental disability or illness”.

The passing in Myanmar of the Children’s Rights Law in 2019 - stipulating non-discrimination with regards to sexual orientation and gender identity - indicates at least some level of awareness and support for LGBT+ rights.

Myanmar Media Inclusion Poster

In March 2019 MDIF created an inclusion poster for Myanmar newsrooms as a daily reminder of inclusion and gender Dos and Don’ts. The poster was distributed to MDIF’s partners and other Myanmar media newsrooms. The idea came from inclusion workshops held with MDIF media partners Mon News Agency and Myikyina News Journal.  The Burmese cartoonist Soe San Win created the cartoons, MDIF’s inclusion and gender consultant Jane Stageman wrote the text, and Indonesian graphic designer Arcaya Manikotama designed the poster.  Click here to download the Myanmar language version and here for the English language version.

MDIF media poster PDF

Perspectives on Inclusion from Four Media & Advertising Practitioners

We asked four senior executives working in Myanmar’s media and advertising sectors about the value of having inclusion policies and practices, and the implications of failing to do so. They include Mango Media Group CEO Rose Swe, Dawei Watch Chief Editor Van Or, 7Day Online Television Chief Editor Nyein Nyein Naing, and Dawei Watch founding Editor-in-charge Myo Aung. Here are their essays.

Rose Swe, Mango Media Group: If You’re Not Inclusive, You Won’t Survive

When you work in advertising or media, you have to keep everyone in mind – different cultures, religious beliefs, genders, ages, abilities and talents. It’s the only way to recognise and acknowledge all of the different people and communities that make up your country and your audience. It’s the only way you’ll come up with innovative ideas. And it’s the only way you’ll survive.

In the past, national media and advertisers often focused on Myanmar’s dominant Burman culture and on Buddhism. But it doesn’t work that way anymore. Young people are the future. They’re not hiding anymore. They’re more and more open. If you don’t understand their perspectives, attitudes and behaviours, they’ll ignore you and you won’t survive.

My advice to media is to never forget that your audience is no longer your age. Given the growing focus on digital and the impact of COVID-19, this is even truer now than it was a year ago. Also don’t forget that you’re an influencer so you have a responsibility to educate your audience about inclusion and to help them be open to diversity. All of these things go hand in hand.

The same goes for hiring. The more open you are when you hire, the stronger you’ll be. At Mango we do rainbow parties. We don’t discriminate. We value diverse talent and the ability to work together. It’s not even a question of understanding everyone. What’s most important is acknowledging and respecting differences. That we’re all human. That’s good for Myanmar and that’s good for your business.

By Rose Swe, CEO, Mango Media Group, Myanmar

Van Or, Hakha Post: Inclusion, Creativity and COVID-19

COVID-19 taught us the importance of inclusion, creativity and sustainability.

We can now see that all three are closely linked.

Before COVID-19, we were a pretty traditional media organisation, based in the small town of Hakha in the Chin mountains.

I’m 74 years old. I work as a pastor and as Hakha Post’s Chief Editor. I guess I’m also pretty traditional, and that means it’s not always easy for me to think of new creative ideas. Yet faced with the pandemic that’s exactly what we had to do.

What we didn’t expect was that the young people on our staff - especially the women – would quickly stand out as innovators and take the lead.

When the churches closed in Hakha in early April the young women working in business and editorial suggested we livestream the church services on YouTube and Facebook. We assumed that some of the 40,000 people living in and around Hakha would listen, yet the broadcasts ended up attracting Hakha people from around the world. That dramatically increased our audience and enabled us to start earning revenues from our YouTube channel.

More recently we created a music program featuring two of our young women staff members who work as online TV presenters and who are also famous local singers. Although that program has just started, we can already see that it’s attracting young people, allowing us to expand and diversify what used to be a more traditional audience. As well, the live music program is attracting advertisers and increasing our revenues.

So, while COVID-19 has been a challenge for media outlets, it’s also been an eye-opener. We’re finally recognising the potential of our younger women staff members, and the creative ideas they’ve proposed and developed have expanded our digital work, making it a more successful part of our business.

Van Or, Chief Editor, Hakha Post

Myo Aung, Dawei Watch: Inclusion, Ecology and Sustainability

Actually, it’s simple.

The concept of inclusion means not excluding anyone based on differences such as gender, LGBT+ or disability, and seeing individuals based on their abilities.

It’s a question of mutual recognition and respect, and it reflects the fundamental ethics upon which society should be based.

As a journalist, I’m familiar with the rights of minority groups and indigenous people, gender and LGBT+.

However, the idea of inclusion being good for an organisation’s business was new to me until a little more than two years ago when Dawei Watch started working on this issue with MDIF.

Upon reflection, I’ve realised it’s true.

When you’re in the media business, for example, reporting on minority groups means you have more access to that market, and you’re also recognising and respecting their rights.

Irrespective of gender, LGBT+ or disabilities, individuals have different abilities, and some have combined abilities. And that can be a great support for the survival and growth of your organisation.

Inclusion also brings with it diverse thoughts.

People think according to their experience, identity and existence. In a society of diverse people, diverse ideas can be heard. And it’s beneficial to be able to make decisions based on those ideas.

Digging deeper into inclusion, I’ve found many research papers and articles exploring how respect for inclusion can be good for the business growth of an organisation.

Reading about the facts, resources and evidence in these documents, it’s struck me that it’s like a natural phenomenon.

The greater the biodiversity of a garden or a forest, the stronger, greener and more sustainable it is. Likewise, a person can only be strong, healthy and live long if he or she has access to balanced and diverse foods.

This is very simple. But people tend to forget to take it seriously.

Keeping this phenomenon of bio-diversity and balanced and diverse foods in mind, if the culture of an organisation is based on mutual respect, and there is a recognition and acceptance of diversity in its veins, with relevant policies in place and being practiced, it will definitely be a happy workplace.

Is it not true that recognition, freedom and happiness are critical to both a person’s and an organisation’s growth?

I do, however, have a concern about focusing only on the business benefits of inclusion.

This could lead to exploiting people’s diversity only for business benefits.

Business benefits should go hand-in-hand with mutual recognition and respect for differences and diversity.

Myo Aung, Dawei Watch founding Editor-in-Charge

Nyein Nyein Naing, 7day: Gender, Equality and Leadership

I started working in journalism in 2001 when I was 17 years old. William Chen hired me to join his team at Kumudra weekly. I was new to Yangon and didn’t know anyone, so I was lucky that a senior woman journalist at Kumudra told me they were hiring. I was also lucky because William wanted to help young women with their journalism careers. That meant most of the other staff were also young women, so I felt comfortable.

My father was an NLD politician and columnist, so growing up in Thegan, a small town in Bago Region, I was surrounded by politicians and journalists. Even reporters who were working underground for exiled media. I admired them and wanted to be like them.

Soon after I joined Kumudra, the senior woman journalist who helped me get my job moved on to 7Day to assist them with the launch of their news weekly. She was their first journalist. I followed her in May 2002 when the journal was two months old. I was their second journalist.

I took on different jobs at 7Day and then, in 2004, when many members of the editorial team left to launch a new journal, I got my chance. I was the most senior editor left, along with my colleague Ahr Mahn. From then on, we both moved upwards, from editor, to executive editor, to duty chief editor, and finally, for me, to Chief Editor of 7Day Online Television, and for Ahr Mahn, to Chief Editor of 7Day Daily and Weekly.

In the early days, we often had to go to the official censorship board to defend our journalism, and I was usually the only woman newsroom leader there. Eight years later not much has changed. It’s still unusual to meet women in high-level decision-making positions in Myanmar media. In some rare cases, media owners are women, but they often appoint men as their decision-makers. Some women have also headed international media outlets. But it’s different at Myanmar media. There are many talented women journalists out there, but not many in top management. So old censorship laws may be gone, but old attitudes still prevail.

I guess I’ve been lucky because the men I’ve worked with haven’t made me feel different just because I’m a woman, or because I’m younger than some of the men. But I’ve had to make sure I push the boundaries. My work at 7Day Daily and Weekly is a good example. When the daily was launched in 2013, Ahr Mahn and I worked side-by-side with equal responsibility. We alternated weeks so we were each in charge at different times.

That equitable division of labour worked well, even after I had my first child, and even though I often had to work late nights. Once again, I was lucky because my mother helped with childcare. Yet, when I had my second child, I knew I had to make a change and that’s when I moved over to set up 7Day’s smaller television and digital unit. Other women I know have left their media jobs to raise their kids or have moved to less demanding jobs in a different field. I don’t know any men who have done that.

The professional relationship I’ve had with Ahr Mann for 14 years - working closely, with equal responsibility – has influenced the way I run my own team today. I’ve made it a priority to create the same kind of gender balance.

I think men and women bring different things to their jobs. I witnessed that when Ahr Mahn and I worked side-by-side, and I’ve also witnessed that during the COVID-19 pandemic. I’m not saying one way is better than the other – just that they’re different. Together we’re balanced. So I definitely feel diversity and inclusion are good for business.

By Nyein Nyein Naing, Chief Editor, 7Day Online Television

Myanmar Media Inclusion Survey

MDIF conducted inclusion survey interviews with 35 Myanmar media outlets in November 2020. Survey interviewees comprised senior executives of nine national outlets based in Yangon, eight outlets from five of the country’s seven regions, and 18 outlets from the country’s seven ethnic states. Twenty-seven of the 35 outlets currently participate in MDIF’s business-capacity building program; to enable a wider reflection of the current media sector, six other national media were also surveyed, as well as two additional outlets from the ethnic states and regions. Click here to see a list of participating media. Click here to see a map of their locations.

All of the media surveyed are private outlets that publish news, information and investigations, and that were in operation at the start of the survey period. MDIF conducted one-on-one online, phone or email interviews to maximize comprehension and accuracy, rather than distributing an online survey. As with all interviews and surveys, the onus was on participants to answer the questions clearly and honestly; MDIF also verified and cross-checked the veracity of the information provided to the extent possible.

Survey highlights:

  • While many women work in the media sector (33% of the combined staff of the 35 outlets), they are underrepresented in key roles, including in senior leadership and frontline journalistic jobs.
  • Medium-sized ethnic media outlets employ the largest percentage of women, followed by small-sized national media. Small and medium-sized media in Myanmar’s regions employ the smallest percentage of women.
  • The percentage of women employed generally decreases as the roles increase in seniority.
  • Media outlets generally pay men more than women. However, while outlets led by men generally pay men more than women, outlets with mixed (men, women, and/or non-binary) leadership tend to have more gender-balanced salaries. The primary justification offered for higher pay levels for men was that men often have more experience than their women or non-binary counterparts.
  • Levels of diversity with regards to disability, LGBT+, ethnicity, religious belief, and age vary widely among media outlets.
  • Survey respondents noted a total of 10 self-declared non-binary staff members (1% of the total); one outlet in the ethnic states is co-led by a man and a non-binary person.
  • Most outlets do not have inclusion policies or plans.

Survey charts:

The seven charts below provide an aggregated, comparative look at gender and inclusion at the 35 outlets surveyed. The three gender categories are women, men and non-binary. Interviewees provided information based on the declared gender of their staff members.

Survey respondents represent nine national outlets, 18 outlets from the ethnic states, and eight regional outlets. Four are large operations, 16 medium, and 15 small. With regards to heads of organisation: 24 are all-men led, four mostly-men led, six mixed (men, women and/or non-binary) led, and one all-women led.

In the following chart, the gender of the 35 outlets’ combined total of 999 staff is analysed according to outlet type, size and leadership. All 35 outlets employ women and men, and five outlets employ non-binary staff too (14% of the 35 outlets), including two national and three local media from the ethnic states. One of the latter is co-led by a non-binary person.

When the data is aggregated for all 35 outlets, 33% of the staff are women, 66% are men, and 1% are non-binary. With regards to type and size, medium-sized ethnic media outlets employ the largest percentage of women (41%), followed by small-sized national media (35%). Small and medium-sized media in Myanmar’s regions employ the smallest percentage of women (24%).

Gender breakdown of outlets' staff
If you’re a woman, there’s nothing you can’t do. But when you try to build relationships with sales clients, they can sometimes misinterpret you. It can feel like abuse when they ask you personal questions or when they want to hold meetings at a hotel. These kinds of men don’t treat us like professionals or take us seriously.
Kay Khine, Sales Manager, Myanmar Now

While many women work in the media, they are underrepresented in certain key roles, including in leadership and frontline journalistic jobs. The following two charts analyse gender across all 35 outlets, as well as by specific roles, based on 999 combined staff members working for the outlets surveyed. Thirty-three percent of staff in the 35 outlets are women. Women are fairly well represented in senior management (43%) and management roles (47%), but only fill 19% of the head of organisation roles. A small proportion of journalists and editors are women (24% and 20% respectively), but women occupy the largest percentage of finance/administration roles (74%). Women are also in a majority in sales and marketing roles (82%), TV/radio presenters (86%), and hold more than half of the support (cleaning/cooking) roles (62%).

Men occupy most head of organisation (80%), senior management (57%), manager (53%), editor (77%), and journalist (75%) roles. The majority of technical, design and digital jobs are filled by men: IT/webmaster (87%), camera operator and photographer (93%), engineer (100%), and designer (85%). Some respondents remarked that they tend to send men to digital and technical training as they assume they are more digitally and technically minded and skilled.

Gender breakdown of specific roles across all outlets

The following chart shows that the percentage of women employed generally decreases as the roles increase in seniority.

Gender breakdown of seniority across all outlets

Media outlets generally pay men more than women. The number of non-binary staff was too small to draw a reliable conclusion as to whether they are paid more or less than women or men.

The following chart breaks down the 35 outlets’ salaries on a gender basis; it does not elaborate on the reasons for these differences (for example, seniority or performance). Twenty-two outlets generally pay men more than women (63%), and one outlet pays all men more than women (3%). Six outlets generally pay women more than men (17%), but there are no outlets where all women get paid more. Six outlets say that there is no difference in pay between men and women (17%). There are also some clear differences in the breakdown according to the type of media outlets; for example, six of the eight media outlets surveyed in Myanmar’s regions generally pay men more than women (75%).

Gender breakdown of outlets' staff salaries

Outlets led by men generally pay men more than women, whereas outlets with mixed (men, women, and/or non-binary) leadership tend to have more gender-balanced salaries. Of the 27 outlets which are exclusively or mostly led by men, 20 pay men more than women (74%), three pay men and women equally (11%), and four pay women more (15%). Of the eight outlets which are not led by men, but instead have mixed gender leadership, three generally pay men more than women (43%), three pay men and women equally (43%), and one pays women more than men (14%).

Most of those surveyed said that their pay is based on pay scales, and that their pay scales are determined by level of responsibility, experience and performance, and not by gender. When asked further, they gave a variety of reasons for gender-based pay differences. The following chart lists the most frequent answers provided by respondents. Only six said that men get paid more than women when they are in the same role (18%). Twenty-two outlets said that men tend to have better-paid jobs than women (65%), including a comparatively high 75% of ethnic outlets. Most outlets also said that men generally have more professional experience than women in the same role (20 outlets, 59%).

Forty-four percent of senior managers of national media outlets believe that women generally ask for higher pay than men of the same role, compared to 25% of senior managers of regional outlets and 18% of ethnic outlets. Senior executives at half of the ethnic states and regions media outlets surveyed believe men need higher salaries than women (50% and 47% respectively), which is significantly higher than their counterparts in national outlets (11%).

Reasoning for gender discrepanies in salary

3 This chart includes answers from 33 of the 35 outlets. The remaining two outlets did not have an opinion on this question.

Outlets have different levels of diversity with regards to disability, LGBT+, ethnicity, religious belief, and age. The following chart shows the proportion of outlets’ staff which self-declare as having the status of disabled, LGBT+, aged 60+, or of having a religious belief or being a member of an ethnic minority group. The 35 outlets identified 706 cases of minority status among their 999 staff, although some of these cases may be intersectional (for example, a staff who is both disabled and LGBT+).

Only 2% of surveyed outlets’ staff members declare that they have disabilities, significantly lower than the 4.6% that did so in the national census. Only 2% of staff are over the national retirement age of 60, and less than 1% self-define as LGBT+.

The ethnic and religious belief categories are more complex. Unsurprisingly, ethnic outlets have the highest percentage of staff members from ethnic minority groups (84%), as well as the highest percentage of staff members who do not self-define as Buddhist (56%). National media have significantly fewer staff from ethnic minority groups (17%) and non-Buddhists (10%). Outlets from Myanmar’s regions, many of which have predominantly ethnic Burman and Buddhist populations, have fewer staff members who do not self-define as Buddhists (7%).

Large outlets have considerably fewer staff from ethnic minority groups (9%) and non-Buddhists (8%). However, large outlets do have greater representation of staff with disabilities (3%). None of the large outlets surveyed stated that they had LGBT+ staff, although it is unclear whether this is because they do not track LGBT+, or because staff may fear discrimination if they reveal their LGBT+ status.

The most commonly cited Myanmar population statistics come from the 2014 Myanmar national census. Ethnic data has yet to be released, ostensibly because authorities fear it could cause civil unrest. Other sources, such as the Brookings Institute, place the Bamar majority at around 68% of the country’s total population. National statistics on persons from LGBT+ groups are unavailable; however, according to international studies they represent approximately 2.75% of the total population in the countries where research was conducted.

Proportion of staff from minority groups

The following chart details the 35 outlets’ inclusion policies, plans, or commitments. Thirteen outlets have inclusion policies (30%), two have specific plans on inclusion in process (5%), and 12 have general human resource policies (28%). Slightly more than half of the outlets do not have any inclusion policies or plans (57%). In terms of leadership, outlets headed by women or by a mix of genders have a higher percentage of inclusion policies compared to those led mostly or entirely by men (50% and 33% respectively).

Types of outlets' existing inclusion policies

Jane Stageman, Inclusion Consultant: Good For Business, Business as Usual

Inclusion is good for business when it becomes business as usual. However, it can be a sensitive concept to explore in any cultural context and requires trust.

I started collaborating with MDIF’s Myanmar Media Program two years ago as a gender and inclusion consultant, doing in-house tailored training with its private media partners. MDIF had already been working with these partners on business development so had established relationships and trust. This was crucial for our work. Our regular engagement on gender and inclusion over the past two years has also built trust with regards to exploring sensitive issues related to gender and inclusion.

Together with MDIF’s partners, we’ve explored and experimented with innovative ways to create more inclusive organisations that can enhance business performance and open up growth opportunities for people from all backgrounds in the industry. What we’ve learned is that inclusion has to be led by example; that to be an inclusive organisation you need to understand challenging concepts; and that the impact of inclusion is often experienced in relatively small, everyday ways, as well as through more measurable outcomes.

Karen Information Center (KIC) inclusion and gender workshop, Hpa-An, Kayin State, 23-24 February 2019
Karen Information Center (KIC) inclusion and gender workshop, Hpa-An, Kayin State, 23-24 February 2019

One of our first priorities was to treat everyone as equal in the development of their inclusion policies. To get started, we created bespoke in-house workshops with leaders, managers and employees participating together. Each workshop was tailored for each individual media house. For one organisation, it took a single workshop to achieve staff-wide engagement; for another, it took three workshops to make sure everyone was engaged in contributing to, and owning, their inclusion policy.

The goal was to create a safe setting that encouraged inclusive behaviours, a willingness to listen to different perspectives, to challenge each other constructively and to be able to reach a consensus. Understanding that these workshops were not one-off events was key. Every six months we followed up to help review and revise action plans, and to encourage leaders, managers and employees to take equal responsibility for their implementation.

Our starting point was endeavouring to achieve a common understanding of the terms used to describe different groups, and the ways in which discrimination operates in societies, organisations, behaviours and language. The media partners’ media content provided a rich source of examples. We took an in depth look at gender. We examined the ways in which diversity and inclusion can support business development and stronger business performance in media organisations. And we looked at what inclusive organisations do differently, and how they create a feeling of belonging for all employees, whatever their identity and background.

It wasn’t always easy to grasp these concepts. People learn differently and at different speeds. Many media organisations were male-dominated, so men more often felt challenged with regards to their attitudes and behaviours. Without a doubt, focusing on the wider concept of inclusion – rather than exclusively on gender – calmed sensitivities, and enabled both obvious and subtle forms of discrimination to be demonstrated from a range of perspectives, and the intersectionality of identities held by individuals to be recognised and more fully accepted.

There have been moving revelations. “I now realise I’ve been prejudiced toward LGBT+ people all of my life”. “I now know women can do anything”. And there have also been small, yet noticeable, shifts in mindsets and behaviours. Being more careful not to use discriminatory language. Trying to be more respectful of others. Showing more willingness to try to work as a team. Placing greater value on different perspectives. Making more effort to include everyone in building stronger organisations.

Some media have been pro-active in removing barriers to inclusion for different groups. These include introducing new practices such as the provision of breast-feeding facilities, establishing sexual harassment complaint mechanisms, workplace adjustments to accommodate individual needs, job advertisements seeking underrepresented groups, and implementing new practices to value and encourage all employees through annual appraisal and identification of training and development needs.

Dawei Watch inclusion and gender workshop, Dawei, Tanintharyi Region, 26-27 February 2019
Dawei Watch inclusion and gender workshop, Dawei, Tanintharyi Region, 26-27 February 2019

Although most of MDIF’s participating partners can point to some kind of change with regards to diversity, achieving organisational impact is not easy or quick. They’ve employed more women. Or more of their women employees are working in a broader range of jobs or in managerial roles. They’re more willing to recruit persons with disabilities. The impact on business performance is, however, harder to measure. Even more so since COVID-19 brought with it new and urgent challenges that have resulted in significant additional pressures on Myanmar media business operations.

The work to become inclusive organisations isn’t short-term. That’s the challenge. It needs to become business as usual and to be constantly revisited and reviewed. Two things can help to keep it on track: a strong commitment from the media businesses themselves, and a growing body of evidence that points to its positive impact on business. But you have to be in for the long haul.

By Jane Stageman - MDIF inclusion and gender consultant

How To Get Started

If you’re a woman, you have to motivate yourself and work harder than men. Then opportunities will follow. But it’s vital that the media organisations you work for have inclusion policies that are appropriate for their business teams and, most importantly, that they implement them.
Jao Chan, Mon News Agency Sales Manager

There is no quick fix for making your workplace inclusive. It is a journey that ideally involves everyone in your organisation and that aims at systemic change. Your goal is to create an environment where every individual’s contribution is appreciated. To achieve this, you need to examine the ways in which your workplace culture and climate are able to change, and to put systems and practices in place to tackle discrimination.

Here are some key areas and practices to help you get started:

Step 1: Organisational Principles

Organisational principles or values are a window into your culture and the climate of your organisation, as well as a message to all employees, customers, stakeholders and suppliers. One Myanmar media organisation has adopted the following comprehensive set of values:

  • We respect and value the dignity, identity and rights of every human being
  • We encourage the inclusion of everyone
  • We work to combat discrimination against sex, gender, disabilities, LGBT+ people, age, religion and ethnicity
  • We accept and value diversity
  • We work to eliminate inequality and to promote equality

Your principles - and your commitment to them - can be communicated to employees in individual employment contracts, staff handbooks, organisational policies, and training sessions and meetings.

Step 2: Inclusive behaviours

The ways in which individuals understand their organisations guide their behaviours and actions. For example, experiencing the values or principles of an organisation in practice determines whether or not employees believe they are authentic. This places the onus on everyone working in an organisation to create an inclusive culture, with the shared belief that all employees are respected, valued and allowed to be themselves. In other words, everyone has a responsibility to help build an inclusive climate that values differences.

Leaders and Managers

Senior leaders and managers need to understand that their behaviour sets the tone for what is expected in the workplace. They should be inclusive behaviour role models who challenge exclusionary behaviour and practices, and who influence employees with regards to understanding the value of inclusion.

Line managers and supervisors must also act as role models for inclusive behaviours. Their treatment of employees is crucial, in terms of understanding specific needs and ensuring there is a positive team environment, including valuing contributions to decision-making. They are also directly responsible for implementing the practices and procedures that support equality and diversity (see below) for their employees. In line with the grievance and disciplinary procedures of the organisation, this necessitates immediate action when faced with unacceptable behaviours.

A code of conduct is a useful way of ensuring that every employee understands the expectations of their colleagues, managers and the overall organisation vis-à-vis inclusion. Project Include, a non-profit that works on diversity and inclusion in the tech sector, provides a useful guide for writing a code of conduct. Your code of conduct can outline the need to respect others in the workplace, and clearly state that discriminatory behaviour, harassment or victimisation will not be tolerated. It can refer the employee to the organisation’s inclusion policy and reinforce that the employee and organisation are complying with non-discrimination as required under Myanmar law.


All employees play an important role in developing inclusive workplaces. This includes treating others with understanding and respect e.g. showing an interest, being a good listener, valuing different views and ways of thinking, and doing a fair share of the work. It also means not exhibiting any behaviour that deliberately excludes, insults, bullies, harasses or creates a hostile working environment for another individual or group.

Employees also have a responsibility to call out exclusionary behaviours and to report them to their manager. Each employee also needs to read the inclusion policy of the organisation (see section 2) and engage with the practices that support equality and diversity (see below). This includes a willingness to learn about the causes and impact of discrimination for different groups in society. This can ease tensions that arise from perceptions that some individuals and groups get special treatment.

Step 3: Diversity and Equality in Practice

This step can be divided into two main categories: 1) identifying diversity bias in your organisation; and 2) introducing specific practices that seek to remove barriers and to promote equality for groups that experience systematic discrimination.

Identifying diversity bias

A diversity breakdown of your workforce in terms of gender, disability, ethnicity, age, and sexual orientation and gender identity can provide valuable insight into existing bias or barriers to particular groups in terms of accessing, or progressing within, your organisation. This kind of breakdown is commonly used to analyse the distribution of men and women, as well as non-binary individuals. There may, however, be sensitivities with regards to the open identification of ethnicities, disabilities and sexual orientation. Surveys asking for this data need to make clear that the queries are optional and that privacy will be respected, and to clearly state how the information will be used and stored. SurveyMonkey offers a free online template for a basic diversity metrics survey.

A lack of workforce diversity often reflects societal discrimination; for example, for which kinds of jobs do applicants lack appropriate education and skills? Your organisation can make a positive contribution by endeavouring to improve employment opportunities. An annual review of the diversity breakdown of your workforce can also be used to measure your progress towards equality.

Introducing practices to eliminate discrimination and promote equality

The Myanmar Centre for Responsible Business (MCRB) published two guides in 2017 and in 2020 that provide a comprehensive list of recommendations for the elimination of discrimination and the promotion of equality.

Among the key areas that media organisations need to address are:

Recruitment and Selection

Media leaders often state that they do not receive applications from underrepresented groups, yet there are measures they can take to counter this challenge. Job advertisements can clearly state that the hiring organisation is inclusive, and can specifically ask for applicants from a group that is underrepresented. Another approach is to offer internships to individuals from underrepresented groups so they can build up the necessary experience to apply. As well, during selection processes, it is vital to avoid judgements or decisions based on identify information that is not strictly relevant to the job in question. This includes health or disability, marital or pregnancy status, physical appearance, religion, ethnicity, or age. Job descriptions need to focus on the actual requirements of the job, while application forms and interviews need to focus on abilities, qualifications and experience.

Reasonable Accommodation

Whether they are employees or job applicants, it is crucial to consult, and learn directly from, persons with disabilities about the best ways to include them and to enable access. Disabilities are extremely varied, so arrangements need to be appropriate for the individual in question. According to the Myanmar Centre for Responsible Business, a reasonable accommodation checklist for employers can be used to evaluate the workplace environment, to identify barriers, and to explore reasonable adjustments for the professional inclusion and/or promotion of people with disabilities. Under Myanmar law, there are plans to introduce a quota system for job and training opportunities; as such, employers are expected to explore job and training opportunities for disabled people. Job Accommodation Network is an online resource that recommends ways to accommodate different types of disabilities.

Maternity and Paternity

The prejudicial viewpoint that women are not good employees and cannot be promoted due to pregnancy and childcare is well entrenched in Myanmar. All employees need to be aware of their maternity and paternity leave rights, and whether or not there is flexibility with regards to childcare. Under Myanmar law, for example, there is a minimum of six weeks maternity leave before the birth, and eight weeks afterwards, and two weeks paternity leave. To enable women to return to work, employers should consider providing nursing and breastfeeding facilities in the workplace. Larger media organisations, with significant numbers of women employees, can also consider establishing childcare facilities. They should also make clear if these benefits are available to same-sex partners. Both Mon News Agency and Myitkyina News Journal have established breastfeeding facilities as part of their inclusion action plans. Mon News Agency’s Managing Director Nai Myint Naing observes that this has enabled women to continue working, so it has been good for them and for the media outlet.

Promotion and Training

Even though a significant number of women are employed in the media industry, they are still under-represented in leadership, management and decision-making positions. This is also true for other groups facing discrimination.

There are a number of positive steps that can be taken: identifying opportunities to strengthen on-the-job work and management experience, such as project or work placements in different parts of your business; when there are training and development opportunities, ensuring there is diversity in terms of the participants selected; and offering mentors to new women managers and/or sponsoring them to obtain specific qualifications. For a more systematic and in-depth approach to improving women’s ability to access and play leadership roles, please refer to the UN’s 2017 gender Gap Analysis tool specifically developed for businesses.

Harassment and Victimization

Challenging the use of stereotypes can make an important contribution to workplaces and to society. These stereotypes often legitimise unwelcome harassment and victimization of groups that face discrimination. This can take various forms: verbal ridiculing or name-calling; persistent harassment; and bullying, assault and rape.

It must be made clear that this kind of behaviour will not be tolerated in the workplace. People must also clearly understand what constitutes harassment. Posters are a good way of communicating these kinds of messages. It is also useful to have a designated person in your workplace to whom employees can speak in confidence about these kinds of issues.

DVB Multimedia has introduced a specific sexual harassment procedure, and trained members of its Gender Equity Committee to assess cases. Karen Information Center and SHAN have included a sexual harassment complaints process in their HR policy, while Dawei Watch has integrated it into its staff handbook.

Step 4: Fair treatment for everyone

Ensuring that everyone feels valued, accepted and supported in your workplace is at the core of a truly inclusive approach. Yet without a fair framework of pay, work conditions and treatment, this objective can be easily undermined. Important areas where these systems need to be in place include:

Fair Work

A set of global principles established by Fairwork, in partnership with the International Labour Organisation (ILO), offers a useful benchmark for assessing the fairness of work conditions, including fair pay, fair conditions, fair contracts, fair management, and fair representation. Fairwork strives to create a fairer platform economy and to improve the conditions of the people employed. These global principles are relevant for the Myanmar digital media industry, and build on the basic compliance required by Myanmar’s own labour laws, such as the Minimum Wage 2012, the Employment and Skill Development Law 2013, and the Leave and Holiday Act 2014 (that all include non-discriminatory clauses).

Employee Appraisal

An annual employee review involving a staff member and their manager establishes work plans, targets, expectations and training needs for the coming year, and thus helps staff members succeed in their jobs and in the teams where they work. In addition to setting job and career objectives, it can also include behaviour objectives; for example, through the use of questions such as, ‘How could you behave differently to make the team more inclusive?” and/or “What could you do, or what support do you need, to participate as an equal member of the team?”

Grievance procedures

Enabling problems to be addressed quickly and appropriately, robust grievance arrangements act as a safety net for employees. The UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights have established criteria for non-judicial mechanisms (UN Report, 2011), including involving people in the design who might need to use the mechanism in the future. Complaints tend to be of a sensitive nature; for example, when a woman brings a sexual harassment complaint against a manager. This makes absolute trust in the confidentiality of the arrangements a key factor, as well as the opportunity to be accompanied by a person of choice and to ensure there is no victimisation following the complaint. In addition, after carrying out an impartial, documented investigation, employers need to address complaints as soon as possible, and to be prepared to take appropriate disciplinary action.

Periodic reviews of the areas in step 4 can reveal systemic issues and patterns that need to be addressed to maintain a fair working environment. Additional training, new approaches, and/or revised procedures are likely to be regularly required.

The four aforementioned steps (organisational principles, inclusive behaviours, diversity and equality in practice, and fair work) are a necessary part of the work you must do to become inclusive. Depending on what is already in place, media organisations will need to determine the most relevant starting point. Each subsequent action will then need to be considered and researched internally, and to be consistent in its delivery. Ensuring a diverse representation of employees are involved in the development of the organisation’s approach will enhance its authenticity, as well as provide insight into the most effective means of implementation.

Inclusion Policies

Your inclusion policy demonstrates your commitment to inclusion, as well as your inclusivity with regards to creating it. Engaging employees in its development enables a deeper understanding of the causes and impact of discrimination in society, lessens tensions about perceived special treatment, and highlights the inclusive responsibilities of everyone in the organisation. MDIF knows of nine Myanmar media organisations that have already participated in this kind of process, via a series of workshops involving as many employees as possible that represent the diversity of the workforce, whether demographically, occupationally or structurally. Some of these media organisations have gone on to agree and/or create their own inclusion and/or gender policies, although the implementation of these policies has not been consistent across the board.

Inclusion Policy Template

Vision: An inclusive organisation where everyone, regardless of their background, identity or circumstance, feels valued, accepted and supported to succeed.


Our (name of organisation) strives to:

  • Respect individual dignity, identity and human rights
  • Create a positive, affirmative and inclusive working environment for all
  • Prevent discrimination on the basis of sex, gender, disability, sexual orientation and gender identity, ethnicity, religion and age
  • Foster equality and diversity
  • Enable fair work with regards to employment, pay, training, promotion, benefits and other conditions of employment

Inclusive Climate:

To achieve climate and culture that are inclusive for all of our employees, we will:

  • Ensure our business vision and strategies promote our inclusion policy
  • Share our inclusion policy with employees, partners, suppliers and all other stakeholders
  • Conduct orientation and training about our inclusion policy
  • For the governance and management of our organisation, seek a balance of men and women, including people with disabilities, and of different sexualities, ethnicities and ages
  • Conduct an annual survey to monitor awareness of inclusion issues, and address problems as required.

Equality and Diversity:

To achieve inclusion for groups that face discrimination as specified in the principles, we will provide and/or work toward:

  • Encouraging applications from people who are underrepresented at different levels of our organisation e.g. through positive statements and images in advertisements
  • Only discussing criteria relevant to the job during the selection and assessment processes
  • Ensuring maternity and paternity provisions are in accordance with Myanmar’s labour law, and are communicated to employees and available to same sex partners
  • Supporting working parents e.g. breastfeeding facilities and flexible working hours
  • A reasonable accommodation checklist to ensure persons with disabilities are able to work in our organisation
  • Communicating clearly that discrimination, harassment and victimisation will not be tolerated in any form

Fair Working:

Our organisation is committed to:

  • Establishing a fair wage structure, and fair conditions and benefits for all employees that comply, as a minimum, with Myanmar labour laws
  • Ensuring there is equal pay for work of equal value for groups that face discrimination that are specified in our inclusion policy
  • Inserting inclusion principles and inclusive behaviours in employees’ code of conduct, with a link to the inclusion policy
  • Doing an annual fair and consistent appraisal of all employees to clarify job and behaviour expectations, and to identify training and development requirements
  • Communicating procedures for reporting grievances and promptly investigating and taking disciplinary action where appropriate

Responsible Behaviours:

We personally commit to helping to create an inclusive working environment and culture for all by:


  • Acting as inclusive behaviour role models for managers, employees and all stakeholders
  • Promoting the contribution of diverse abilities and work styles in teams and management
  • Raising awareness of managers and employees about the use of language, behaviours and ways of working that are respectful and empowering
  • Acting decisively when issues of discrimination, harassment and victimization are raised


  • Acting as inclusive behaviour role models for employees
  • Encouraging inclusive teamwork, including space for diverse voices and equal participation in decision-making
  • Making employees aware of conditions that remove barriers to their equal participation in the workforce. Dealing with requests promptly
  • Periodically reviewing local practices and procedures to ensure they do not discriminate

All Employees:

  • Being familiar with, promoting and implementing the inclusion policy
  • Showing consideration and respect toward, and listening and trying to understand, all colleagues
  • Challenging and reporting unacceptable behaviours
  • Learning about the causes and impact of discrimination for specific groups
  • Ensuring personal language and behaviour at work do not discriminate
  • Not engaging in any behaviour that constitutes bullying, harassment or victimisation

Monitoring and Evaluation of the Policy

Key actions are:

  • Setting up an internal working group to ensure the actions outlined in the inclusion policy occur
  • Doing an annual review of the implementation of the inclusion policy, and making changes as needed
  • For additional help, engaging with gender, disability and LGBT+ organisations in Myanmar

Date Policy Agreed

Key Questions To Ask Yourself About Your Media Outlet

  • What makes inclusion good for your business?

Aligned with ethics? Improves performance and innovation? Ensures legal compliance? All of these? Other examples?

  • Where do you need to focus your efforts?

Embed an inclusive workforce culture? Ensure fair treatment for all employees? Address the needs of groups of employees who face discrimination? Other examples?

  • How will you move toward becoming an inclusive organisation?

Engage all staff in developing and feeling ownership over your inclusion policy? Adopt changes voiced by groups underrepresented in your workforce? Integrate an inclusive vision into all business strategies and plans? Other examples?

  • What is needed to embed inclusion as an integral part of your organisation?

Policies to address the elimination of discrimination and promote equality? All employees, especially managers, adopt inclusive behaviour and language? Decisive action to deal with issues of discrimination, harassment and victimisation? Other examples?

  • How can your progress towards inclusion be assessed?

Positive employee feedback? Increase in workforce diversity? Staff from underrepresented groups progressing through the organisation? Other examples?

You can also support inclusion by talking about it in your media content:

  • What actions are being taken in communities, states, regions and by the Union government to embed the fundamental components of international human rights law i.e. the principles of non-discrimination and equality?
  • Which sectors and employers lead by example by implementing legislation and plans that exist to protect groups that experience discrimination, (notably, the Law on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the National Strategic Plan for the Advancement of Women (2013-2022)?
  • How can the voices of those who still face legal and traditional cultural obstacles be heard more forcefully, such as LGBT+ people, women facing gender and sexual violence, and those without citizenship rights?


Editors: Thal Nyein Thu (Grace), Jane Madlyn McElhone, Tessa Piper

Inclusion consultant, writer, reviewer: Jane Stageman

Data charts and analysis: Thal Nyein Thu (Grace), Jane Madlyn McElhone, Oliver Spencer

Survey interviewers: Thal Nyein Thu (Grace), Kaungsu Lamin (Moon)

Digital design and layout: Inspiral Creative

Funded by Swedish International Development Agency (Sida)

Publication date: 11 December 2020

Publisher: Media Development Investment Fund, 37 West 20th Street, Suite 801, New York, NY 10011, USA

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Media Development Investment Fund (MDIF) is a non-profit fund that invests in independent media in countries where access to free and independent media is under threat. Since 1996, MDIF has provided $236.2 million in affordable financing to 122 media businesses in 42 countries that provide the news, information and debate that people need to build free, thriving societies.


MDIF conducted inclusion survey interviews with 35 Myanmar media outlets in November 2020. Survey interviewees comprised senior executives of nine national outlets based in Yangon, eight outlets from five of the country’s seven regions, and 18 outlets from the country’s seven ethnic states. Twenty-seven of the 35 outlets currently participate in MDIF’s business-capacity building program; to enable a wider reflection of the current media sector, six other national media were also surveyed, as well as two additional outlets from the ethnic states and regions.

All of the media surveyed are private outlets that publish news, information and investigations, and that were in operation at the start of the survey period. MDIF conducted one-on-one online, phone or email interviews to maximize comprehension and accuracy, rather than distributing an online survey. As with all interviews and surveys, the onus was on participants to answer the questions clearly and honestly; MDIF also verified and cross-checked the veracity of the information provided to the extent possible.

The inclusion and gender training offered by MDIF’s inclusion and gender specialist over the past two years provided insight and knowledge for this report, as did MDIF’s business capacity-building work with its media partners. A networking discussion with five women media sales and marketing specialists was conducted on 2 October 2020. Four Myanmar media and advertising leaders also contributed essays for this report.

List of Survey Respondents & Map


Type of media:

National media – 9 respondents

Media from the ethnic states – 18 respondents

Media from the regions – 8 respondents

Size of media:

4 large media - 65-150 staff (all national)

16 medium-sized media - 20-64 staff (3 national, 4 regional + 9 media from the ethnic states)

15 small media – 1-19 staff (2 national, 9 media from the ethnic states, 4 media from the regions)

List of respondents (alphabetical order)

7Day - Yangon

Ayeyarwaddy Times - Ayeyarwaddy Region

Chin World Media - Chin State

Chinland Herald - Chin State

Dawei Watch - Tanintharyi Region

Delta News Agency - Ayeyarwaddy Region

Development Media Group - Rakhine/Arakan State

DVB Multimedia Group - Yangon

Frontier Myanmar - Yangon

iVision - Chin State

Kachin News Group - Kachin State

The Kachin Times/The 74 Media - Kachin State

Kantarawaddy Times - Kayah/Karenni State

Karen Information Center - Kayin/Karen State

Khonumthung Media Group - Chin State

Magway Journal - Magway Region

Mandalay Indepth News - Mandalay Region

Mawkun Magazine - Yangon

Mizzima News - Yangon

Modern & Kumudra - Yangon

Mon News Agency - Mon State

Monywa Gazette - Sagaing Region

Myanmar Now - Yangon

Myitkyina News Journal - Kachin State

Shan Herald Agency for News - Shan State

Shwe Phee Myay News Agency - Shan State

Tachileik News Agency - Shan State

Than Lwin Times - Mon State

The Chinland Post - Chin State

The Hakha Post - Chin State

The Irrawaddy - Yangon

The Magway Post - Magway Region

The Voice Daily - Yangon

Voice of Myanmar - Mandalay Region

Zalen Media - Chin State


Survey Questionnaire

Media outlet information:

  • What is the name of the media outlet?
  • What is the interviewee’s name and position in the organization?
  • What is the name of the interviewer(s)
  • What is the date of the interview?
  • How many staff are working at your outlet?


  • Please indicate the total number of WOMEN working at your outlet
  • Please indicate the total number of MEN working at your outlet
  • Please indicate the total number of NON-BINARY staff working at your outlet


Do you have WOMEN, MEN and/or NON-BINARY staff members in the following roles and, if so, how many in each role?

  • Head of organisation
  • Senior management
  • Managers
  • Editors
  • Chief journalist
  • Journalist
  • Sales and marketing
  • IT/Webmaster
  • TV/radio presenter
  • Finance/Administration
  • Distributor
  • Typist
  • Support (cleaning/cooking)
  • Other:

Pay scales

Please indicate if there are differences in pay for your men, women, and non-binary staff members, and place your answers in context.

  • All men get paid more than women
  • Men generally get paid more than women
  • Men generally get paid SLIGHTLY more than women
  • There is no difference in pay between men and women
  • Women generally get paid SLIGHTLY more than men
  • Women generally get paid more than men
  • All women get paid more than men

Which of these do you agree with, relating to your outlet?

  • Men generally GET paid more than women of the same role/rank
  • Women generally GET paid more than men of the same role/rank
  • Men generally ASK FOR more pay than women of the same role/rank
  • Women generally ASK FOR more pay than men of the same role/rank
  • Men generally NEED higher salaries than women
  • Women generally NEED higher salaries than men
  • Men generally have more professional experience than women of the same role/rank
  • Women generally have more professional experience than men of the same role/rank
  • Men tend to do better-paid roles than women
  • Women tend to do better-paid roles than men
  • Better-paid roles are generally more suitable for men
  • Better-paid roles are generally more suitable for women

What gender are the highest-paid staff members in your organisation?

  • All men
  • Mostly men
  • Equal men and women
  • Mostly women
  • All women
  • Other:

Staff diversity

How many of your staff have disabilities?

How many of your staff openly self-define as LGBT+?

How many of your staff self-describe as belonging to an ethnic group?

How many of your staff self-describe as coming from a religion other than Buddhism or as not having a religion?

How many of your staff are over 60?

Please list any practices you have introduced for specific groups in your workplace/organisation to overcome possible discriminatory barriers

Terms and Definitions

Term Definition
Sex Refers to the biological differences between men and women, especially as differentiated by reproductive functions.
Gender Refers to the roles, behaviours and characteristics that have been created and taught by society. They are most often expressed in binary terms, as relating to men and women, boys and girls.
Gender Identity Describes a personal sense of one’s gender. Gender identity can correlate with a person’s assigned sex at birth or can differ from it. Gender expression typically reflects a person’s gender identity but this is not always the case.
Sexual Orientation An umbrella term that encompasses sexual identity, attraction and behaviour. It is a subjective view of oneself and may change over time.
LGBT+ An umbrella term for the gay community. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, with the + used as an all-encompassing term for the expanding range of abbreviations that describe different identities.
Person with Disabilities A person who has one or more long-term physical, visual, speech, hearing, psychosocial, intellectual or sensory impairments, whether innate or not. Disability is understood to be the result of the interaction between the person and their environment (interactive social model).
Reasonable Accommodation Any modification to the work environment or job application process that an employer can reasonably implement that allows an employee or job applicant with a disability to benefit from equal employment rights
Ethnicity Belonging to a social group that has the same ancestral origins and which shares a common and distinctive culture, religion and language. Ethnicity is a complex issue which is socially defined.
Discrimination Any distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference that prevents the equal enjoyment of human rights. Treating someone differently because of who they are and what they believe in.
Equality The state or condition that affords all individuals equal enjoyment of human rights, socially valued goods, opportunities and resources.
Sexual Harassment Unwelcome sexual behaviour that is offensive, humiliating or intimidating. It can be written, verbal or physical, and can happen in person or online.

Digital Resources and References

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Bourke, J.& Dillon, D. by Deloitte, (2018). The diversity and inclusion revolution: Eight powerful truths (https://www2.deloitte.com/content/dam/insights/us/articles/4209_Diversity-and-inclusion-revolution/DI_Diversity-and-inclusion-revolution.pdf)

Colors Rainbow (2019). In the Shadows: Systemic injustice based on sexual orientation and gender identity/expression in Myanmar (https://www.colorsrainbow.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/In-the-Shadows-%E2%80%93-Systemic-injustice-based-on-sexual-orientation-and-gender-identityexpression-in-Myanmar.pdf)

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Centre for Diversity and National Harmony (2017). The State of Social Harmony in the Ayeyarwaddy Region (https://www.cdnh.org/publication/the-state-of-social-harmony-in-ayeyawady-region-narrative-report/)

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Job Accommodation Network (2020) Accommodation Search (online) (https://askjan.org/)

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Myanmar Centre for Responsible Business (2020) LGBT+ Equality in the Workplace. (https://www.myanmar-responsiblebusiness.org/pdf/resources/lgbt-equality-in-the-workplace.pdf)

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