Women in Communication

During our meetings with media organizations, we asked questions about the direction the media is going and challenges it faces in the current political climate. Whenever we spoke with a woman in the communication field, we like to ask about gender in the workplace. Most of the students on this trip study communication, a predominately female major. Despite the dominance of females studying communication in universities and females with jobs in the communication field, men make up most of the senior positions in the field. Thus, during Q&A sessions, we asked women about their experience in the communication field.

Two of the women we talked to had not experienced gender inequality in the field but recognized their female peers had. Other women we talked to faced troubles with promotions and harsh criticism of physical appearances in the communication industry.

Women are not always seen as having the skills necessary to be promoted, especially if their boss is a male. Kellie Specter, Senior Director of Communications at WNET, quit her job because her boss did not promote her, though she was qualified for the promotion. Upon asking how she could better her skills to attain the position, her boss offered no help.

The broadcasting side of communications faces unique challenges. There are differences in the treatment of male and female news reporters. The wife of Kyle Pope, Editor in Chief and Publisher of CJR, told us about his wife, a news reporter in New York. Comments were often made about her physical looks and two hours were spent in hair and makeup before each show. A student on this trip relayed her mother’s experience in broadcasting and faced similar challenges. The student’s mother faced hardship as she aged because she looked older.

Why is there a double-standard for men and women in the communications field? Why is it okay for overweight, bald men to report until they are 60 while women are pressured to leave broadcasting for lack of attractiveness?

The most important advice I heard during this trip is to ask “why?” When you are not given the promotion, ask “why?” When you are asked to change your looks, ask “why?” When you are not given the job, ask “why?”

Do not ask angrily, but with genuine curiosity. Perhaps the person who is stopping you does not know why they are telling you “no.” Make them wonder what they can be doing to stop gender inequality.

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  1. #1 by Hannah Brekke on January 22, 2017 - 7:51 pm

    I definitely found it surprising how uneven the playing field for women in media was! I knew that it could be an issue, but I didn’t realize that it was so large. I have especially noticed that discrimination in the TV world and have always questioned it. Some of my favorite local reporters that were female were let go just because they got too old, where there are much older men.

  2. #2 by pschoening18 on January 23, 2017 - 8:31 pm

    I really appreciate your insight and thoughts you have on women in communication. What an interesting subject to evaluate and discuss! The way we treat women is different than how we treat men in almost every career field. However, there are unique challenges women face in communication in particular, as you have pointed out. In regard to the broadcasting side of communication, women seem to have to meet a certain attractiveness standard that factors in age. If women do not ask “why” they are treated differently than men, the system of unequal treatment will persist. Gender inequality is largely a systemic cultural issue, and the first step of progressing past it is acknowledging that it exists and speaking out when injustices women face in the workplace occur.

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