By Marisa McKay
The recent BBC article, “Women ‘under-represented’ in world newsrooms,” got me thinking, are women still not equal to men in this industry? Haven’t we been there done that with gender equality? Haven’t we as women been reassured that we are equals in the workplace? Apparently in newsrooms across America and Asia this is not the case. The article states that “nearly three-quarters of top management jobs in news media across the world are held by men, as are two-thirds of reporting jobs, a new study has found” (BBC, 2011). It goes on to give other grave statistics, discussing how women were best represented in Europe and worst in Asia, but that in the US, women account for 41% of the news workforce. This last stat doesn’t sit well with me. Are we supposed to be happy that less than half of the collective news-driven workforce in America are women? Personally, I am not. In an age where women have an equal chance of getting into college as men do, shouldn’t they have an equal shot in the newsroom? You would think yes, but this problem of under-representation has been vocalized for about two decades with little improvement.
In October of 1998, The New York Times ran an article about the annual meeting of the American Society of Newspaper editors that took place that April. The yearly goals of this group were discussed, two in particular focusing on the need to incorporate newspapers into the new age of technology and of increasing minority presence in America’s newsrooms. However, “the issue of women in the newsroom was nowhere in sight” (New York Times, 1998). Some argued that if women were counted in the census that would track minorities in newsrooms across America, then newspaper executives will be distracted from bringing in “actual” minorities. “Including women in this census would complicate matters” (New York Times, 1998) said one editor. Apparently, we will never be able to usurp that rumor that women complicate things.
Or maybe, the real reason gender diversity is not as important, is because some think that men and women do the job of “reporter” too differently. In their study A Socialization Perspective on Male and Female Reporting, Shelly Rodgers and Esther Thorson investigate if gender differences actually result in a difference in the way that they would report on stories, source stories, stereotype, and other aspects of reporting as well. Although there were differences in the way that they report, arguably, the differences are in favor of women. “Female sources drew upon a greater diversity of sources, stereotyped less, and wrote more positive stories than did male reporters” (Rodgers & Thorson, 2003). They asserted that the socialization process of boys and girls that begins from birth is the reason for these differences. Meaning that women are not at fault for taking on their roles differently than men do; it’s society’s fault since they were raised to think differently. Women should not be at a disadvantage for something that society is responsible for. Not to mention that having differing opinions is a good thing when it comes to interpreting new stories!
As it turned out, women as a minority were not counted in the 1998 census, but since then data and statistics, like the ones in the BBC article, have been taken and documented. Perhaps this means that we are making strides as a society; in 1998, women were not counted among other minorities in the newsrooms of America, yet in 2011, they are and steps to include them will follow. As a student organization founded by young women about to enter the news world as journalists, reporters, etc., this is disheartening to say the least. It is my hope that these statistics serve as a wake-up call to newsrooms everywhere. Women are ready, willing, and able to take on the same tasks as men, and as Rodgers and Thorson argue, they just might do it with better sourcing, and less stereotyping.