This semester, all three of the Daily Titan newsroom executives are women, and we felt we couldn’t let Women’s History Month slip by without addressing the hurdles that women face in the industry.
As the editor-in-chief, managing editor and digital managing editor, we virtually run a newsroom of over 70 people. Aside from the expected concerns as executives, being women brings additional obstacles.
While we are fortunate to have a progressive work environment that’s respectful and collaborative, there are collective struggles that female journalists have to overcome in their careers.
As female journalists, we worry about things our male counterparts never have to. We clutch our keys walking to our cars after a late shift at the newsroom. We speak to the occasional patronizing source who stares a little bit too long during an interview. We deal with a catcall or two while walking to cover an event, despite the press passes hanging off our necks.
In press conferences, we are shoved aside by larger men and forced to fight for our spot, both literally and figuratively. When covering events, we know that what we wear can often make or break if we get the quote. Our appearances will often be put before our voices.
We also recognize that women of color, women from the LGBTQ community and women with disabilities have their own set of struggles within the industry, often erased from the conversation of diversity and feminism. As if maneuvering the world as a woman-presenting person is not hard enough, racism, ableism and homophobia creates a greater distance between us and the door to inclusivity.
As we move into the workforce and out of the newsroom environment we have cultivated, there is always the fear of being reduced to our gender by others within and outside of the job.
A quick Google search will show countless articles detailing what female journalists face on the job — sexual harassment, stalking and sexist comments. Conditions have absolutely improved both in and out of the newsroom, but the double standards that women face daily are alive and well.
Two of us have worked as news editors, a niche that is historically dominated by men. While magazines and lifestyle pieces are often led by women, there are far fewer of us in political press conferences, city councils or court cases. As we wrestle with gender expectations in the realm of journalism, we know there will be extra hurdles.
Men may speak about the challenges women face within the industry without realizing they are talking over us. It is pivotal to recognize the subconscious participation people have in the system, and men should be elevating our stories rather than trying to dominate them.
Furthermore, as three women in power, we know that we face subconscious biases that even we ourselves carry. We are carefully walking the thin line between pushover and ice queen, and are subconsciously held to higher standards than our male predecessors.
Women in power, in every industry and field, have to worry about shallow concerns like the facial expressions they carry. If they don’t smile, there’s a possibility they might be perceived as angry. Yet, if they smile too often, they could be seen as too soft and ill-equipped to manage the workplace. Battling the internalized stereotypes that come with being in charge can leave us and the women that have come before us stuck between a rock and a hard place.
Across 200 news outlets in 10 different markets, only 23% of the top editors are women, according to a 2020 study conducted by Reuters Institute. In the U.S., women accounted for 41% of the top editors observed.
While these numbers have improved since years past, there are still significant improvements to be made as women across all industries slowly but surely achieve higher positions of power.
The women who came before us, from investigative journalist Ida B. Wells to TV broadcaster Robin Roberts, paved the way for us to occupy these spaces. We celebrate the women today who work in the industry despite the obstacles they are presented with.
Women in media — past, present and future — will continue to prove the importance of our voices.
Happy Women’s History Month.