Can journalism’s gender balance be perfected in 2013?

Written by Alex Veeneman

These are interesting times for the women who work in the media outlets and organisations across Britain, but even more so for those who study at its universities and look to seek employment in the

These are interesting times for the women who work in the media outlets and organisations across Britain, but even more so for those who study at its universities and look to seek employment in the industry.

The debate over the balance of gender in journalism has been one that has continued through 2012, recently with the criticism against The Today Programme on Radio 4 when data emerged that fewer than one in five women contribute to the programme. It is likely to continue as a debate topic into 2013.

For Jenni Graham, a co-editor at the Wannabe Hacks journalism blog and a student in the MA Broadcast Journalism programme at City University in London, the question of why there is gender equality is mind boggling. “I know it’s cliche to say ‘It’s 2012 – why does this inequality still exist?’ but I really do find it mind-boggling that there is still such a gender divide in journalism,” Graham said. “I find it incredibly worrying that older or ‘mature’ women are overlooked in journalism. This is most evident in broadcasting and television journalism where there have been several high-profile so-called ageism cases in recent years. The stats are disappointing. I’m just starting out in my journalism career and I find it really discouraging that I could already be disadvantaged for something as basic as my gender.”

Graham adds that she is confident equality can be met, but says more should be done. “I think there needs to be more research into why the numbers of women in the industry is dwindling,” Graham said. “Thankfully, this is happening. I’m aware of several research projects currently underway.” Graham notes the research currently being undertaken at City, led by Lis Howell, who is examining the number of female experts on television and radio programmes. “The research is in its early stages; however, I’m glad to see that both practicing journalists and academics are recognising that there is a problem here that needs to be resolved,” Graham said.

In her blog post on the Wannabe Hacks site, Graham noted that female students had outnumbered male students in courses at universities. Graham notes from conversations she has had that those who go through the programmes end up with employment in other industries. “Many journalism students (both male and female) do end up in other industries after completing their courses, PR, marketing and advertising being the most popular,” Graham said. “I’m not sure why this is. To be a journalist, you definitely need to have a particular mindset, one that is constantly seeking out stories, asking the cynical questions, and thinking critically about pretty much everything. Not everyone wants to do that (as it can be pretty exhausting!) and many people realise this after they have completed a journalism course.”

Graham says though that the skills she is learning are transferable. “We don’t just learn to think like journalists,” Graham said. “We also learn about business and how important a sense of entrepreneurship is in an industry that is competitive and not exactly renowned for having plenty of jobs available!”

Graham adds that she can be successful in the industry. “I really hope that I can make it into journalism when I graduate,” Graham said. “We were told when we started the course that we would be different journalists when we left, and I really do feel that I am in a transitional stage. When I started out I was 100% sure I wanted to work in radio. Now I’m looking at options in television, online, and even print, so fingers crossed I find some kind of success in one of those fields.”

Graham adds that it is also important to have a thick skin in the industry, which is something a lot of women lack, and that she has worked hard to adopt one.

In 2013, the debate surrounding women in journalism and gender equality is to continue. The question overall is what role women will have in British journalism moving forward.

What do you think? Do you think gender equality has been met in British journalism? What is your thought for its future? Have your say in the comments section below, on Facebook and on Twitter.

Editor’s note: This is part of a series going into 2013 on the future of women in journalism.

Image courtesy of Flickr user The Wandering Angel.