Women have excelled themselves in various segments of the world media but have thus far lagged behind in print journalism, according to a New Zealand researcher.
Dr Catherine Strong of Massey University believes that the ‘negative and brutal environment’ dominating the print journalism deters women.
The balance between male and female journalists in the news media has been the subject of research for four decades and studies have shown that female journalists lagged behind their male colleagues in jobs, pay, and seniority, she said.
“Studies have found that many young women enter newspaper journalism and that overall, there seems more women print journalists than men. However, they are relegated to lower career levels, and are almost invisible at the editorial and executive levels. My research has been able to determine the reasons,” she said.
Stated to be the first of its kind, Dr Strong’s research analysed the reason for the small number of women as newspaper editors.
Her study involved nine women who entered and exited the post of editor in daily newspapers between 2000 and 2009 and interviews with several senior female journalists who had shunned top positions in newspapers.
Dr Strong, who obtained her doctorate last month from Massey University, is currently teaching converged media at an all-woman university in Dubai, where she combines teaching with her on-going research into gender and the media.
She was previously a journalist at Radio New Zealand, TVNZ and other regional television stations and had managed her own media consultancy.
She said even the few women who became editors, tended to stay in the role for only three years.
“When they get to positions of seniority, they enter the ‘collegial wilderness,’ look around and realise that it is incredibly uncomfortable with no support networks to assist. Most became editor without any prior management, financial training, career plan or many female role models,” she said.
The glass bubble
She blamed the ‘glass bubble’ and not the ‘glass ceiling’ for the lack of women leaders in New Zealand’s newspaper journalism.
Women created the ‘glass bubble’ to protect themselves from the harsh, negative, openly competitive and aggressive nature of daily journalism, she said.
“But this glass bubble is also the knowledge women have; that they have the skills and abilities to get a better job in another industry where they are valued,” she said.
Dr Strong said the brutal environment drove women away from the industry.
Not all men were exempt from a similar plight she said and added that the harsh culture transcended national borders.
“New Zealand is similar to other countries in supporting a daily newspaper culture that presents ingrained barriers for women to climb the career ladder.”
Dr Strong said women leave the profession not because they could not handle the reality of the newsroom but because of the dominating negativity.
This was despite newspaper management recognising the need for more women in leadership roles, she said.
“We need more women editors because we need another viewpoint. Newspapers are losing readers and the largest loss internationally is of female readers. Management understands this but do little to keep women in the newsroom,” Dr Strong said.
Recognising and rewarding managerial talent in young women and providing appropriate training could help in encouraging them to stay in the profession longer, she said.
“The old management style is for editors to go on gut feeling, recognising qualities in young male journalists that they perhaps see in themselves or admire. There is a reliance on tacit management and they groom these people from very early on in a tacit way. This just reinforces and repeats the masculine newsroom culture.”
She cited Bernadette Courtney, Editor of the Wellington based Dominion Post as an example, saying that she had received prior leadership and support.
“This may be the start of improvements,” Dr Strong said.