Nefertari Bilal

Journalism has always had a diversity problem.  Although more women are becoming part of the news industry, it’s still male-dominated.  Among the top managers in journalism, very few are women.  In fact, the Global Report on the Status of Women in News Media found that men occupy 73 percent of senior positions.   This perpetuates men deciding which and how many women are hired and promoted.  As the statistics reveal, few men are promoting women to top positions.  Could this be sexism or a lack of skills on the part of women?

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It is certainly not a lack of education.  Even at Northwestern University’s Medill, a school of journalism, my class had an even split between males and females.  Nieman Reports has found that since the 1980s  an equal or higher amount of women have entered communications schools and are just as likely to graduate and find work as their male counterparts.  Yet, education does not necessarily equate to career growth, nor that a woman will have the experience required to reach a senior position.  Only a third of women have 20 years of experience in journalism.  Companies want someone who has been in the field for more than a decade, which the majority of female journalists are unable to acquire.  

In addition, women find themselves still expected to live out gender roles that hinder their ability to advance within the industry.  The working conditions of journalism make it very challenging for women to balance their roles as mothers and media producers; journalism is a demanding job with no set number of hours.  Socially, even in our more egalitarian times, women are expected to do the majority of childcare and domestic chores.  Men don’t have this expectation imposed on them as strongly and are able to put in the time required to gain experience, thus increasing their likelihood of being promoted.  They also earn more, with women making an average of 44, 342 and men 53,600 dollars.  The wage gap and demands of domestic duties force many women to quit.

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Women find themselves expected to live out gender roles that hinder their ability to advance within the industry.

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However, even those who do manage to remain in journalism find that the sections they cover are devalued within journalism.  Nieman Reports also revealed that studies have shown that due to women taking on the majority of child and home care, men are freer to work ‘harder news beats.’  Women tend to work in ‘softer beats’ either because of personal interest or increased flexibility in schedule.  These sections, however, are less prestigious and thus not as likely to win women promotions.  Some examples of hard beats that men tend to dominate are business, politics, and international news.  These are seen as more difficult and thus earn more respect than the beats women tend to cover such as fashion, dining, home, travel, and health.  The reason women cover these topics is not solely because of interest according to Nieman Reports, but that unlike the sections of politics and international reporting, they are less time-consuming and don't demand as much time away from home and family.  

The solution?  I believe that until company policies are put in place that allow for women to keep a work-life balance, or society becomes more egalitarian in how men and women split up child care responsibilities, (i.e allowing men and women to have parental leave to spend with children, more flexible hours, etc.) many women will be pushed out of the journalism field.  Not only will this limit the number of women who rise within the ranks of journalism, but it will leave journalism unable to connect with its diverse audience - a large portion of whom are women.

 

Nefertari Bilal is a sophomore at Northwestern University, majoring in journalism with a minor in Creative Writing.  She is in New York City as an editorial intern for bSmart Guide.  To see her other writing, please go to https://voicesofcolorblog.wordpress.com/.

 

Comments (1)

  1. Meagan Hooper

Amazing post Nefertari! These same challenges and expectations prevent women from rising the ranks in all industries. It's essential that we re-think corporate culture and family life if we want to include women in senior leadership and...

Amazing post Nefertari! These same challenges and expectations prevent women from rising the ranks in all industries. It's essential that we re-think corporate culture and family life if we want to include women in senior leadership and decision-making.

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