GOOD

Boys Will Hire Boys: The Media Is Male and Getting Maler

About half the time, we should be hiring the best woman for the job.


My first job in journalism was at a local newspaper staffed mostly by men. When many of them left for gigs elsewhere, I was told that hiring decisions would be based on finding the "best person for the job." In a matter of months, we had staffed all of our management positions with three white men named Mike. So I tipped the gender balance even further—I quit.

This week, the Women's Media Center released its annual report on the state of women in the nation's newsrooms, radio stations, and film sets. The good news: In 2011, women held 40.5 percent of newspaper jobs, compared to the 36.6 percent they occupied in 2010. (Women's representation at American newspapers had hovered below the 40 percent mark for more than a decade). The bad news: By almost every other measure, media remains overwhelmingly male, and it's getting maler.


Last year, women made up only 22 percent of the local radio workforce, compared to 29.2 percent in 2010. Women's representation in sports news hasn't budged since 2008 (just 11 percent of editors, 10 percent of columnists, and 7 percent of reporters are women). In one year, women dropped from 20 percent of behind-the-scenes entertainment television roles to just 4 percent. Worldwide, women are the subjects of 24 percent of news stories. Just 21 percent of Sunday morning television commentators are women. Only a third of speaking characters in films are female (and about a quarter of them are dressed sexily). Women direct 5 percent of films. And it's not for lack of talent or enthusiasm: Women make up 73 percent of journalism and mass communication graduates.

This story is not new. The Women's Media Center's data charts the chronic underrepresentation of women behind the camera, on the page, and in newsrooms back to 1998 (really, it goes back forever). But the sheer endurance of male overrepresentation in the media begets its own narrative: It does not necessarily get better. And even when it does, it doesn't always stay that way. Gender equality in the media takes attention, work, and vigilance. It requires us to confront an uncomfortable truth: If we are all truly hiring the best person for the job, it means that we think that men are better.

It's easy to hide behind that old journalistic convention of objectivity, but when your "unbiased" hiring strategy results in the systematic underrepresentation of women, something very biased is going on. And the problem compounds itself—male workforces mean male networks and male job candidates and male hiring metrics and stories about men. About half the time, we should be hiring the best woman for the job. If we don't, we're part of the problem. So hire women. Write about them. Give them lines. Invite them onto your shows. Just do it, and don't stop.

Photo via (cc) Flickr user visual.dichotomy. This post has been edited to clarify that women now make up 40.5 percent of newspaper jobs, not 40.5 percent of jobs in newsrooms more broadly.

Articles
via Barry Schapiro / Twitter

The phrase "stay in your lane" is usually lobbed at celebrities who talk about politics on Twitter by people who disagree with them. People in the sports world will often get a "stick to sports" when they try to have an opinion that lies outside of the field of play.

Keep Reading
Culture

The Free the Nipple movement is trying to remove the stigma on women's breasts by making it culturally acceptable and legal for women to go topless in public. But it turns out, Free the Nipple might be fighting on the wrong front and should be focusing on freeing the nipple in a place you'd never expect. Your own home.

A woman in Utah is facing criminal charges for not wearing a shirt in her house, with prosecutors arguing that women's chests are culturally considered lewd.

Keep Reading

In August, the Recording Academy hired their first female CEO, Deborah Dugan. Ten days before the Grammys, Dugan was placed on administrative leave for misconduct allegations after a female employee said Dugan was "abusive" and created a "toxic and intolerable" work environment. However, Dugan says she was actually removed from her position for complaining to human resources about sexual harassment, pay disparities, and conflicts of interest in the award show's nomination process.

Just five days before the Grammys, Dugan filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and her claims are many. Dugan says she was paid less than former CEO Neil Portnow. In 2018, Portnow received criticism for saying women need to "step up" when only two female acts won Grammys. Portnow decided to not renew his contract shortly after. Dugan says she was also asked to hire Portnow as a consultant for $750,000 a year, which she refused to do.

Keep Reading