Its 2016 and women currently make up less than half of the population. In newsrooms.
Maria Carrillo, senior editor at the Houston Chronicle, strode into a meeting of newsroom leaders and realized something odd to her: Of the 11 people around the table, only two were women. This disparity didn’t surprise Carrillo; she knows she’s a rarity as a high-ranking female editor.
Women comprise about 37 percent of U.S. newsrooms, according to a 2014 study by the American Society of News Editors. The number is a 3 percent drop from the previous year. However, the number of female supervisors has increased, to 35.4 percent in 2013 from 34.6 percent in 2012, according to ASNE. The Virginian-Pilot, which has been around for 151 years, hired its first female publisher, Pat Richardson, two years ago.
Carrillo said the demands of the being a journalist have contributed to a lower number of female reporters.
Reporters are expected to work long hours and churn out stories, including video and more digital components, like never before, which can make juggling a home life difficult. That paired with the industry decline and staffing cuts in newsrooms have deterred the strides that women are making, Carrillo said.
Those few women who have broken into the field aren’t being heard, according to Women’s Media Center, which is based in Washington D.C . When it comes to columns and editorials, women reporters are scarce. A 2014 study from the WMC on women’s representation in these pages concluded that,
“...there remains much work to be done before female voices achieve the same level of participation as male writers.”
Jacqui Banaszynski, a Pulitzer Prize - winning journalist, was quoted in the book “Twenty-Five Years of Front-Page Journalism”, said that she has been working to reach the level of her male counterparts since high school.
She would’ve been an astronaut or airplane pilot but was held back by her gender and height, she said in the book. If she had been allowed to take shop class in her 1960s Wisconsin high school, Banaszyski probably would’ve been architect.
Banaszyski was handicapped by her gender growing up, but without that handicap she never would’ve had the journalism career she ended up with, she said. Within that career, Banaszyski was still fighting against the inequality.
“You had to be quick on your feet about how you dealt with sources, editors, and colleagues who didn’t take you seriously.” Banaszyski said, “And you had to fight the doubts of men who thought women could not do the same jobs in the newsroom as men.”
Rosemary Armao, who worked as a journalist for 32 years, knew what she wanted to be in the 6th grade. When the girl sitting in front of her was praised for her ability to write, Armao decided that she was going to be better.
Her competitive streak fueled her when she became a reporter in 1972 at the Gloversville Leader Herald, a small afternoon daily in upstate New York. Later that year Armao left the Herald for Knickerbocker News in Albany, NY and kept bouncing from paper to paper looking for the biggest position she could get.
Armao ended up at The Virginian-Pilot in 1987 following her husband. Armao’s husband had taken a job at a local college so instead of continuing to search for the biggest position, Armao decided to stay put. At The Pilot she eventually became the Portsmouth City editor and reporter.
Armao left The Pilot in 1994 because there wasn’t room for the kind of growth she wanted in her career during her time there, she said. She wanted an even higher leadership position.
Armao found a different kind of leadership position with IREX, the International Research and Exchange Board. Armao has worked with IREX since 1996, teaching seminars and workshops for journalists, academics and students in 13 countries.
While on an Algerian fellowship with IREX in 2007, Armao saw every gender problem in America, multiplied in Algeria.
In Algeria, Armao saw women only as reporters. When Armao talked back to editors, explaining what she wanted to cover and standing up for her stories, the other women were shocked.
Armao said she gained more respect when she started editing others’ work and teaching them the things she had learned.
“When you edit someone’s work in a way that makes it better, they respect you.” said Armao
Since retiring from reporting, Armao has spent her time teaching journalism at The College of Arts and Sciences in Albany, NY and participating in “The Media Project” on WAMC radio. She still works with IREX and other training agencies. However, when she looks at the journalism world today she feels aggravated.
“It annoys me that women are starting to break the glass ceiling just as the industry declines.”
Even still, younger reporters are hitting their heads on the glass ceiling. At least according to Samantha Sunne, who’s been in the field for five years. Sunne is worried that as a young female reporter, she’s not being taken seriously.
“There’s a lot of underlying tendencies that people still have, that can affect your career.” said Sunne
In order to remedy the inequality in media outlets, Bloomberg News plans to welcome and recognize female journalists.
Bloomberg plans to insert more female voices into their stories by setting an annual numerical target, and then increasing that target every year. They want to help their female reporters get into managing roles by assigning mentors and coaches to guide them. Lastly, Bloomberg intends to help create flextime for working mothers.
The WMC also offers a model for news organizations, entertainment conglomerates, interview bookers and media decision-makers of all levels.
Julie Burton, President of WMC said, “Overwhelmingly, men still dominate media. Women are 51 percent of the population—but are hardly equal partners in telling the story. Society is best served when the media accurately reflects the population.”