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Why Women Leave Journalism

Why Women Leave Journalism

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Published by Tracy Everbach
Study that examines why women leave journalism for other careers
Study that examines why women leave journalism for other careers

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Categories:Types, Research
Published by: Tracy Everbach on Aug 14, 2012
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Newspaper Research Journal • Vol. 28, No. 3 • Summer 2007
Women Leave JournalismFor Better Pay, Work Conditions
by Tracy Everbach and Craig Flournoy
Women leave full-time news jobs because of a lackof opportunity, low salaries, lack of mentors,inflexible work schedules and differing perspectiveson news from male-oriented newsrooms.
ince the 1980s, women have composed a majority of undergraduatestudents in university journalism and mass communication programs, and theirnumbers are growing. In their most recent survey of journalism and masscommunication college students, Becker and his co-authors reported that nearlytwo-thirds of undergraduates and master’s students are women.
Yet the ratioof women to men working in professional newsrooms remains the reverse of college classrooms. The American Society of Newspaper Editors reported in its2005 annual survey that only 37 percent of newsroom employees are women.
The most recent American Journalist Survey also reported that one-third of full-time journalists are women, a percentage that has remained the same since theearly 1980s.
The same survey noted that women constitute the majority of  journalists with fewer than five years of work experience—54.2 percent.
This isthe first time in the ongoing survey that women have outnumbered men in thatcategory. Obviously, something is driving women from newsrooms.Therefore, the research question was: Why do some women who study journalism in college later decide to leave full-time newsroom jobs?Various studies have documented factors that could be driving women outof the journalism workforce, including low pay, family concerns, unusual andirregular working hours and a glass ceiling in newsrooms.
Other research hasshown that male and female journalists define journalism differently but that in
Everbach is an assistant professor in the Department of Journalism and the MaybornInstitute of Journalism at the University of North Texas. Flournoy is an assistantprofessor in the Division of Journalism at Southern Methodist University.
Everbach and Flournoy: Women Leave Journalism for Better Pay
- 53most newsrooms, men construct hierarchical and bureaucratic structures toenforce their definition of news.
Women’s journalistic work goals sometimesconflict with masculine ideals of important journalism
and female journalistsoften feel pressure to prove themselves as “one of the men,” even though theymay have different social and personal concerns than do men and differentdefinitions of what is news.
It is crucial that both journalism educators and newsroom managers under-stand why women leave newsrooms so they can find ways to retain them. Thetrend of female students dominating journalism programs shows few signs of diminishing. In 2004, women received 65.4 percent of journalism bachelor’sdegrees, the highest percentage since the end of World War II.
But many female journalism graduates eventually forsake the profession. Professors must under-stand why women leave newsroom jobs so they can help their students succeedas journalists.Therefore, the reasons behind female journalists’ exits from newsroomswere studied by talking to the sources—the women who left.
Women’s Journalistic Standpoint
During the second wave of feminism in the 1970s, women believed andwere told that they could have successful careers and families, as many men do.By the 1990s, many women were questioning this premise, saying women haddifferent concerns and responsibilities than did men. During the third wave of feminism, cultural feminists maintained women were a separate cultural groupfrom men, with different values and practices. Women have their own “stand-point” in a patriarchal society that emphasizes male needs, desires and accom-plishments.
In the male-dominated world of journalism, women’s needs oftenconflict with the demands of the newsroom.Newsrooms have hierarchical and bureaucratic structures constructedhistorically by male desires, needs and definitions of news.
Female journalistshave reported different conceptions and constructions of news than have men,a phenomenon Van Zoonen calls a “gendered nature of journalism.”
Femaleand male journalists perceive journalism differently; that is, they considerdifferent topics, angles, sources and ethics to be important. For example, so-called “masculine” journalism focuses on politics, crime, finance, education andupbringing, while “feminine” journalism involves human interest, consumernews, culture and social policy.
Achievement in many journalism jobs isdefined by production, which sometimes conflicts with women’s ethical com-mitments to serve their audiences and personal responsibilities at home. Womenhave long struggled to show their commitment to their jobs while also doingmeaningful work, goals that sometimes conflict with masculine ideals of important journalism.
Female journalists also perceive newsrooms as male- biased workplaces, as Walsh-Childers, Chance and Herzog showed in a surveyof 277 female reporters, editors and graphic artists at 120 small, medium and
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Newspaper Research Journal • Vol. 28, No. 3 • Summer 2007
large newspapers.
One in four of the women said discrimination was asignificant or very serious problem.
The researchers conducted individual, in-depth, standardized-questioninterviews
with 17 women who had worked full-time in journalism aftercollege and subsequently decided to leave their jobs. The interview method waschosen because it provides rich detail and description. Although only 17 womenwere interviewed, the sample members’ demographics varied greatly. Their journalism experience ranged from one year to 30 years, and their years of birthranged from 1949 to 1982. Thirteen of the women were Caucasian, four wereAsian and one was black. Nine were married and eight were unmarried. Ninehad children and eight did not (although the married women not always werethe same women who had children). The women lived throughout the UnitedStates.
Because of the diversity of the sample chosen, 17 in-depth interviewssubstantiated enough data for a clear picture of women who left journalism jobs.In telephone interviews of one hour to two hours during 2004 and 2005, therespondents were asked a consistent list of questions. Many of the respondentstalked about subjects beyond the set of questions, and follow-up questions based on these topics were asked. Most questions sparked discussion—a“conversation with a purpose”—as described by Lindlof.
Interview subjects were located through snowball sampling, which waschosen because it provided a wide cross-section of women.
The women werepromised anonymity in compliance with human subjects approval from theUniversity of North Texas Institutional Review Board and the Southern Meth-odist University Institutional Review Board. To protect their identities, respon-dents were coded FJ1 through FJ17 (Female Journalist 1 through Female Journalist 17).After completing the interviews, characteristics of each respondent wereidentified and the data were analyzed. Transcripts of the interviews wereexamined and patterns and themes were identified, employing inductivereasoning to find answers to the research question.
Several respondents expressed passion for journalism but said they weredisappointed by newsroom cultures that failed to accommodate their needs anddesires. They said they enjoyed journalism as a career but the hours anddemands of the newsroom did not fit well within their lives.“It’s very difficult to lead a balanced life in the newspaper business,especially in a competitive market,” said FJ2.
“You were supposed to give your blood to the news, and after 10 years of that, it took its toll.” A cultural shift in

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