The Shocking Gender Gap in Newsroom Jobs

Pioneering journalist Helen Thomas.
Pioneering journalist Helen Thomas.

I have to admit that, as a journalism school grad who started her career working for newspapers, I’m floored by the statistics on how male-dominated the field remains. Amy Joyce at The Washington Post crunches the numbers in a recent post, prompted by Jill Abramson’s firing at The New York Times. Men hold about 65 percent of supervisor jobs, a number that’s barely budged since back in the olden days when I was a local newspaper reporter, 1999; reporters are about 62 percent male, a number that’s actually ticked up slightly in the last 15 years; photographers and videographers are the most male-dominated at 75 percent. Men hold 63.7 percent of all newsroom jobs right now, compared with 63.1 percent of newsroom jobs in 1999. I’m shocked by two things: 1. that newsrooms are so male-dominated, since my experience of newspapers was quite different; and 2. that so little has changed in the last 15 years.

I wonder if smaller, local newspapers hire more women than big, national papers, and if that accounts for my different experience. If so, that makes things even worse; it means the big papers are even more male-dominated, and women are stuck in the small, local, crappy jobs. I would say that my experience of supervisors matches these numbers, as almost all of the bosses I had were men.

Though I can’t find specific statistics broken down by newspaper size, this is borne out a bit in The Washington Post‘s second graphic, showing the gender gaps at some of the biggest papers. The worst offender? None other than The New York Times. The closest to gender parity is The Chicago Sun-Times, where there are 190 men and 164 women.

This feels particularly wrong given the number of women in journalism schools right now and for the last several years. Women represent 74 percent of journalism and mass communication grads as of 2010, according to a Women’s Media Center report. This is not a recent phenomenon: 70 percent of grads in 1999 were women. Unlike in tech, where the gap is much bigger in both the applicant pool and employment, there are trained female journalists out there for the taking; news organizations need to step up their recruitment efforts, especially for leadership roles at big-name papers.

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