Appearance over Abilities: The Regressive Psyche of the Newsroom

Since the birth of modern feminism in the 19th century, women have striven to obtain equal rights as men. Despite our immersion in what is called the third wave of feminism, women continue to be discriminated against in many fields of life.

Gender disparity can be seen prominently in the workforce, and in particular the media arena. A recent study in the US, which analysed the balance of gender in American public radio and television, revealed that women, despite constituting 51% of the population, are severely underrepresented in all newsroom roles – from hosting positions to leadership capacities.

These figures, although varying slightly depending on the country, are predominantly synonymous with the global media stage. Women are simply not as present in the industry compared to men. Why? A recent NiemanReports study suggested a few potential reasons: Women are too weak. Women are too brusque. Women are more family-orientated.

The dissemination of these stereotypical scripts has often created a negative stigma regarding women in the media workforce.

As a woman on the cusp of a journalistic career, I am undoubtedly concerned with how, especially, I will manage both a family and career in the years to come. Will I be fired if I choose to “opt out” and have children? Furthermore, will I be discriminated against if I continue to work for as long as possible during a pregnancy?

Facing discrimination for pursuing a natural process of life may be considered ludicrous, and is most definitely illegal in the workplace, but the truth is – it is happening. Only last month, Global B.C. weather reporter, Kristi Gordon, disclosed on air the vast amounts of hate mail she has been receiving regarding her appearance. Gordon is six months pregnant with her second child, and has received comments about her maternity wear such as:

“Nowhere on North American TV have we seen a weather reader so gross as you.”

This astonishing example perpetuates a larger problem of double standards inherent to the global media industry. Women in the media workforce face much more pressure than men when it comes to their appearance, a follow-up article on the story exposed. They are regularly attacked on the basis of their hairstyles and clothing choices.

“I’ve been told I’m bad at my job because of the way my hair looks,” Global Edmonton news anchor Quinn Ohler admitted.

In any workplace, no matter the arena, I believe ability should always be considered more highly than appearance. It is dispiriting that we live in a society that values hairstyles and brand choices over journalistic integrity and talent. Clearly, we have a long way to go to bridge the gender gap and place women on equal standing with men, especially in the newsroom and media industry.

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2 thoughts on “Appearance over Abilities: The Regressive Psyche of the Newsroom

  1. bar726 says:

    Good post Steph, I agree with you on the fact that women in our society are held to different standards to their male counterparts, we are force-fed images of beauty and ideals through the media, which impacts the way women are perceived, even by each other! I didn’t know about Karl Sefanovic wearing the same suit for a year to show the gender inequality in regard to dress code and the standards to which women are held, which is unreasonable when compared to those for men! I think people should be judged on the basis of their ability to do the job, not how good they are going to look doing it.

    Keep up the good work!

  2. sarahwebster884 says:

    Hi Steph ! Really great post !
    I also wrote about this topic and wow ! What a controversial one, so much to talk about, such little word limit. You have made some really great points throughout your post. I also think you have chosen appropriate industry examples. I really feel that women are under represented in the newsroom and like Julie Burton stated ‘…the numbers demonstrate that the glass ceiling extends across all media platforms…we’re still not seeing equal participation. That means we are only using half our talent and usually hearing half of the story’. I really like this quite as I feel that it really sums up women in the newsroom perfectly.

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