It’s no secret that women are underrepresented in the newsroom. Despite the fact that the number of females in powerful positions has increased and that the number of female journalism students have outnumbered male students for the past fifty years, the gender discrepancy in the news industry overall has remained disappointingly static for over a decade.
Studies show that in the beginning of their careers, female journalists tend to start off stronger with better jobs and higher pay. However, it is the men that have staying power in the industry. In print provided by major news agencies as well as on online mediums, women reporters typically account for less than 30% of the bylines.
Looking at many of the responses to both broadcast and print work done by female journalists, it's not hard to understand why. Particularly in the areas in political and sports reporting, there’s a serious trend of the audience putting the focus on the woman instead of the message. Unfortunately, it's a trend that's encouraged by other publications. Magazines reduce the work, research, and qualifications of the woman reporting on sideline to her bra size and eye color, with a sly point to the byline, as though the fact that a woman wrote the article makes it all ok.
The focus on appearance trickles from lists like 25 HOTTEST REPORTERS EVER I MEAN SERIOUSLY all the way down to the comments available for view online, where commenters freely and eagerly take the opportunity to express their opinion on what the reporter wrote. Instead of informed responses based on the article, logic, or anything relating to the subject that was written about, female journalists find themselves subjected to a barrage of "intensely personalized missives of hyper-sexualized hate".
But how can any news agency create and atmosphere that fosters respect for the work of the female journalist when some members of the media cannot contain their skepticism that a woman could possibly legitimately earn a high-ranking position?
The number and perception of women in the news is a serious issue that cannot be pinned on one particular party; no one is blameless. But it an issue that requires serious examination in order for it to change. Because until female reporters are afforded the same respect and authority that men are, they will never have the same opportunity to grow and flourish in the industry.
Sarah Perryman is a postgraduate student on the MA in Multimedia Journalism