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Women’s Job Prospects in Journalism

By Jessica Stewart
Broadcast Producer

Today’s modern culture is that of change and growth in collective consciousness. With marriage rights for homosexuals a heated political argument, the demand for equality for people is front and center. In spite of greater social awareness, many still believe that the uneven balance between men and women is just as prevalent as ever.

Is it true that my gender might play more of a role in my opportunity to succeed than my actual work ethic? I was recently accepted into Arizona State University Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, where I intend to transfer in the fall of 2013 to pursue a career in broadcast journalism. During the next two years, I will be working hard to develop my skills as a journalist.

I plan to have my bachelor’s degree by age 22 in 2015 and enter a workforce I’ve dreamed of being a part of since childhood. When making my decision to pursue this line of work, I understood it would be a challenging path wrought with deadlines, endless hours of research, and cutthroat competition, all of which I have decided that with hard work and resilience, I can overcome.

But what if there is an obstacle in my way of which I have no ability to control or overcome? What if it’s my gender stands between me and realizing my dreams? In my chosen career path and for many others like me, women are a minority. Will our gender have more of an impact on our success than we would like to believe?

Sociology professor Dr. Olga Tsoudis believes that even in today’s society, women are affected by outdated and unjust ways of thinking. She has personally felt the sting of sexism many times throughout her career, beginning with her high school guidance counselor who swore he would “eat his hat” if she got into an Ivy League school.

After graduating from Cornell University, an Ivy League college, with a bachelor’s degree in Human Development and Family Studies, and then earning a doctorate in Sociology from the University of Arizona, Tsoudis began her first teaching position as the only female in the her department of Criminal Justice in Wayne State University.  She was often mistaken for a secretary to the male professors and even had students drop her class upon realizing she was in a position of power as the “professor.”

Tsoudis warns about the economic adversity women face: “Economic justice is really important because that’s how people become independent. Today women make 77 cents to every dollar men make. If women do not have the same opportunities we’re really ruining, hurting, impacting their lives.” Her advice to any women seeking a place in the workforce is simple: “Negotiate your salary and benefits. Realize you are valuable.”

Not only do women fall short monetarily when compared to men, but also in representation within journalism. According to a recent study, “The Byline Survey Report,” women are underrepresented in newspapers, making up only 40 percent of newspaper employees and writing only 20 percent of newspaper op-eds. When compared with data from the “2012 Status of Women in the U.S. Media Report,” which states 73 percent of journalism graduates over the last 10 years have been female, the numbers just don’t line up.

The term “glass ceiling” is used to describe an invisible barrier preventing women and other minorities from advancing through upper rungs of executive ladders within corporate America no matter how qualified they may be.

Maria Hasan, a student at EMCC believes she experienced a similar phenomenon at her job when she was assigned to train a male worker in her position and shortly after, he was promoted ahead of her.

Hasan recently attended the “Smart Start” workshop offered during the second annual Women’s Conference, a Women’s History Month event.  The workshop provides female students and community members, tools to be successful in the workplace by addressing topics such as economic justice. “At the workshop I learned to investigate the pay rate and benefits of any position I apply for so I can bargain for the benefits I receive. I learned that it’s okay to talk about what I want financially and that it’s important to be confident.”

Nicole Crites, news anchor on CBS 5 in Phoenix, believes that the newsroom today has evolved from the male favored institution it was years ago. “I think that men are actually at a disadvantage. In the valley, on-air women outnumber men and in my newsroom both the director and assistant director are female.”

Before joining CBS 5 in 2004, Crites worked her way up from high school intern to weekend editor and reporter at KVOA. She then worked for the CBS news magazine “48 Hours” in New York City.

Crites, who is award winning and Emmy nominated for breaking news and feature reports, believes that the glass ceiling is non-existent today. “Even when I was in college the highest paid people in the industry were strong females: Katie Couric and Oprah.”

Crites believes salary in her industry is determined by credibility and time in the market, not sex. “Credibility creates viewership, the more you connect with your audience the more people will recognize you and that is what makes you valuable.

For women joining this competitive field Crites’s advice is to be genuine. “If you’re looking to become successful, be humble, accept criticism, have a desire to learn, be willing to change, and be passionate about what you do.”

While the glass ceiling resonates with a wide audience of women who share similar frustrations in being limited within the corporate equation, according to an article in The Harvard Business Review the term “labyrinth” might be more appropriate.

The article titled “Women and the Labyrinth of Leadership” explores the idea that instead of there being an invisible barrier preventing women from reaching the top, there is a complex journey, riddled with barriers that can be overcome by women who are willing to work hard for their success.

The article stresses the importance of understanding the obstacles that make up the labyrinth, such as prejudice, resistance to women’s leadership, leadership style issues, family demands and learning how to tackle them simultaneously to achieve success.

It’s up to the women of today to pave the road for the women of tomorrow. We need to come together and make our voices heard. It is our responsibility to our future successors to address injustices in the workplace and demand change now. We have come a long way from the obvious gender prejudices of the past. Now it is time to correct the unfair limitations.