Women in Journalism – Facing Prejudice, Unfair Pay, and a Lack of Opportunities 

Written by Hannah Houghton

There have been several cases where women have been treated unfairly in the journalism field, simply because of their gender. Women often do not receive the same pay as their male colleagues, or do not have the same opportunities to higher positions as men. This is a common occurrence across countless industries, which is why challenging it is so important.

Women often face a larger struggle than men when trying to get into higher positions in the world of work. In 2022, Reuters Institute took a sample of ten online and ten offline news outlets to analyse how gender differences disadvantage women in the workplace. This study found only 21% of the top editors are women, which is a huge discrepancy.  

The study also found ‘among the 51 new top editors appointed across the brands covered, 23% are women. In some countries (Spain, the UK, and the US), half or more of new top editors appointed in the last year are women, but in many others few or none are.’ In addition to this, ‘in 11 out of 12 markets, the majority of top editors are men, including in countries where women outnumber men among working journalists.’ 

As felt by many women, the underrepresentation of women in the field of journalism means that they feel unrepresented or, arguably worse, misrepresented when it comes to topics that directly affect them. 

Photograph: Hannah Houghton

I spoke to a few women about the importance of true representation for women in journalism.  

Khadijah, who is trying to break into the field, said: “We [women] are underrepresented and misrepresented because a lot of the sources come from dominant ideology. This is a perspective formed from the typical white middle-class man.” 

She added: “This is evident in today’s field of journalism as women’s achievement is undermined. Having a voice on topics that matter to me, portrayed by people who have had similar experiences to me is important to me.” 

Medieha, who has worked in TV and production, said: “Having more women would be a great way to share stories which affect our lives and raise awareness of women’s issues.” 

Another issue faced by women in the professional field is the gender pay gap. 

Carrie Gracie was the BBC’s China Editor before leaving after facing unfair pay. She said in a social media post that it was “time to do something new” after having been with the BBC for 33 years. 

Carrie Gracie, former China editor for BBC News. Photograph: Mark Thomas/REX/Shutterstock

In an article for GraziaDaily, Gracie said: “My public battle with the BBC, my employer of 30 years, began in January 2018. Perhaps you saw it in headlines and on news bulletins at the time – ‘BBC China editor Carrie Gracie quits post in equal pay row’. In fact, the battle had begun six months earlier, when the BBC disclosed the salaries of its highest earning employees, and I discovered that men in similar posts to mine were earning much more.”

Female journalists are also increasingly experiencing discrimination and threats which can be extremely harmful in ways that are physical, mental and emotional.

From an article in The Guardian, a 2022 report suggested that ‘online violence against female journalists is one of the most serious global threats to press freedom and has contributed to female reporters being murdered’. 

The report also found that, globally, nearly 75% of the female journalists surveyed had experienced violence online because of their work, and 48% of the female journalists surveyed said they had been harassed with unwanted messages on social media. 

Photograph: Hannah Houghton

Aside from professional barriers like the gender pay gap, prejudice and discrimination, women often find themselves struggling to break into their career due to the lack of opportunities available. 

I have personally recognised that there is a lack of opportunities for women in journalism and the media. For the few opportunities that are available, the specific requirements for location, qualifications and experience mean that a lot of women miss out. 

I spoke to a few women trying to break into the industry to hear their experiences. 

Lamisah, who is currently on a BBC training scheme based in London said: “I do think I am in a privileged position to have access in ways that I know lots of other women across the UK don’t have. I went to a grammar school, which pushed me a lot academically and provided numerous opportunities in terms of future careers.” 

Lamisah also added: “As I have not yet gone to university, I think there will be a huge difference between [me and] my peers when progressing to higher roles within the industry.” 

Medieha said: “I feel that many of the apprenticeships are difficult to ‘break’ into and that they’re looking for specific things which I’m not privy [to] or aware of. I’ve tried [applying to] the BBC apprenticeship a few times now but no luck.” 

As a new generation of young women move into the field, I think we can expect to see them challenging unfair treatment and see an increase in opportunities – both in-person and online – for women wanting to break into journalism, but this is something that is likely to happen over an extended period. 

Here are some opportunities that may be of interest to students wanting to get further into journalism career: 

Free online and in-person workshops – News Associates – Free Journalism Workshops and Open Days 

Advanced apprenticeship – Journalism Advanced Apprenticeship – Careers (bbc.co.uk) 

Online work experience and insight into the field – Journalism Work Experience (springpod.com) 

Hannah Houghton is a first-year student studying BA Journalism. She holds an interest in print and magazine journalism, and she hopes to pursue a career in this. Hannah currently works as a freelance junior content writer where she writes faith-based and charity content. As a Muslim female, she hopes to bring more diversity into journalism and give a voice to the voiceless. She also enjoys travelling, reading and photography. Find her on Instagram: @hannah.the.writer

Feature Image: Hannah Houghton

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