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.