Top Media Roles, a Glass Ceiling for Women Journalists

Published: 31 October 2013

Region: Worldwide

women journalism2There is so much that has improved for women equality at work in the media sector if we look backwards. For example, a woman journalist does not have to resign just because she gets married as it happened for many decades in the last century under the Official Marriage Bar. However, there is still a huge gender disparity in the media as Suzanne Franks, Professor of Journalism at City University London, writes on Women and Journalism.

The facts and figures speak for themselves. The Daily Star is the only national daily newspaper in the UK edited by a woman, Dawn Neesom, in 2013. Women are still noticeably in the minority in the top journalistic roles, despite making up the majority of journalism students.

“People think everything is getting better regarding women equality in media but it is not as simple and positive pattern as they think”, says the professor on an interview for Media Diversity website.

Franks’ publication analyses the obstacles that women still face in the media industry from onscreen sexism and ageism to the dangers facing female foreign correspondents reporting from war zones.

In the past, women journalists suffered discrimination in the newsrooms. Their role was to fulfil the demands of a wife and a mother and it can be seen on many sexist comments that Women and Journalism compiles, “how could a woman possibly break news of wars, genocide or real disaster? She wouldn’t be taken seriously; people would be looking at her earring or hairdo”.

However, nowadays cultural bias against women and stereotypes are still present, reinforcing the gender inequality in the media.  For example, the majority of stories featured are written by men, few women are found to write about crime, sports and politics, instead they write about women features; and the higher the age, the wider is the gender pay gap.

The expectations about the responsibilities of women within the family are still present. “The few women who do get jobs at a higher level have few outside responsibilities; for example, they are far more likely than men to be childless”, says Franks.

The under-representation of women in the newsrooms brings also a negative consequence for the society in terms of diversity and inclusion. The media should reflect the society it is reporting on, however, the media is missing an important part. “If there is not a wide diversity at all levels product in the output, this may affect the nature of the product; in particular whose voice are being heard and how stories are being told”, Franks writes on her book.

To the question how these obstacles can be overcome, the professor answers that one of the keys is “awareness raising”, making people to talk about this issue in order toface the current problems that women journalists face in their workplace.