Saturday, April 10, 2010

Women in Media News: The Gap and an alternative view to closing it

As we have discussed and read extensively in class, it’s impossible to say that there is equality in the job market in terms of race and gender. The numbers are lopsided in both access to high level/executive jobs and compensation, with a greater impact on gender given that women make up about 50 percent of the workforce. According to a report published by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (link to Making the Right Call, from the Women in Media Fact Sheet) the higher the job pays, the wider the gap in compensation is. Communications and Media industries account for the highest median pay for all workers male or female, almost 50 percent higher than all other industries; women earn between 8 and 35 percent more in the dominant sectors. In Wired Telecommunications, the sector with the single highest median pay for women, females earn 71 cents for every dollar a male makes, a 29 percent gap. The gap narrows as the median earnings diminish, from an 18 percent pay disparity in the Newspaper sector to a 10 percent gap in the Radio/TV/Cable industries, which both on average pay 11 percent more than the median. The study finds the sector has been good in allowing access to women and minorities, with the real chance of better pay. However, the trend is that the access to these higher paying jobs does not equal, but rather has a negative effect on the gap between male and female compensation. Furthermore, according to the report The Glass Ceiling Persists: The 3rd Annual APPC Report on Women Leaders in Communication Companies, among communications companies in the Fortune 500, women comprise just 15 percent of the top executives and only 12 percent of board members. Therefore, women lack the access and the means to effect real change in the concentration of power to a seemingly white male minority, even as they are making inroads in other areas.

The news media industry, an intersection of sorts for many Communications and Media sectors, has shown great improvement in allowing access to females and minorities to its news departments. However, this has not translated into executive and decision making jobs. As noted by Carol Jenkins in Media Ownership: Impact on Minority Ownership and Localism, women are only 15 percent of directors on boards of mainstream media corporations. Meanwhile, the FCC, is at the minimum not doing enough to address the problem, and at times seems to support policy to make it worst. In 2003 and in 2007, the FCC attempted to lift the ban on cross-ownership between newspapers and broadcast stations in the same market, but were rebuffed by the courts and Congress after public outcry ( Jenkins, along with many women, minority, and Media groups all agree that Media Consolidation makes it harder for these groups to reach executive positions and ownership stakes. Jenkins also cites a review from Free Press which concluded that the FCC failed to identify 75 percent of the radio stations owned by women, putting into question their commitment to the women’s role in the media. Clearly, the government agency whose sole purpose is to regulate the Communications industry, is not helping enough in this respect.

The website Women’s Views on News ( provides an independent alternative to the news coverage we get from the mainstream news hubs. It is a non-profit project based in the UK, founded by women seeking to change the disparity in female representation in news reporting. According to the most recent survey by the Global Media Monitoring Project from March of 2010, women are featured in only about a fifth of the world’s news headlines and in just ten percent of all news stories. Women's Views on News' publishes stories exclusively about women or from a woman’s perspective, by posting links to existing news articles, or by writing their own, including investigative journalism and op-ed pieces. In my opinion, their offering challenges the existing paradigms of news reporting by making the woman's view their focus, and by giving a voice to stories and experiences that are not adequately represented. In today’s media landscape dominated by big corporations and news reporting that often ignores women, they stand out as a group that’s taking matters into their own hands and bringing a perspective that’s missing.

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