Women still face hurdles in Canadian media, research finds



Even though there are more women enrolled in journalism schools than men, there are still fewer women than men in the field itself. Women are more likely to hit a “glass ceiling” when it comes to getting senior management positions in journalism, and are less likely to be assigned to cover high-profile stories.

These are just a few of the findings in a paper by Ryerson journalism professors Ann Rauhala and April Lindgren. “Women in the Field: What Do You Know?” examines the role female reporters and editors play in Canadian media. Originally released in the proceedings of the Canadian Communication Association’s 2012 conference, the paper is available here.

The literature survey was inspired by a 2011 RJRC symposium of the same name, where one of the main messages that emerged was that “although more women than ever work in Canadian media, their participation in journalism seems misunderstood or underexplored.”

“The symposium was an exciting, even inspiring, event for students and the working journalists,” Rauhala said. “It was clear that someone should try to sketch out the bigger picture for women in Canadian journalism.”

By surveying studies, polls and other papers, Rauhala and Lindgren found that although it appears that women in the field are quickly nearing equality with men, closer analysis of the data shows that this isn’t the case.

“[Women’s] numbers at the top and even in the ranks do not reflect parity… Many women attribute this to the difficulty that a career in journalism poses in balancing work and family life,” Rauhala and Lindgren wrote.

“Women are gener­ally underrepresented in the news and gender stereotypes are often reinforced.”

Signs of inequality in the field include women being assigned far fewer crime and political stories than their male counterparts. As well, women in journalism tend to have fewer children than men, and are also less likely to be married.

The paper pointed to a lack of research on the subject of women in Canadian journalism, and noted that existing data was collected using different methods – resulting in inconsistent numbers. For example, a survey of 221 news editors and directors in Canadian media by Rauhala and Ryerson journalism professor Marsha Barber, published in 2008, showed that only 19 per cent, or 42 editors and directors were women. On the other hand, a 2011 report by the International Women’s Media Foundation found that just over 55 per cent of people in “senior management positions” in Canadian media were women. The latter, however, surveyed 11 Canadian news companies and included news editors, directors, administrative staff and CEOs.

“The literature… make[s] it clear that more reproducible research needs to be done exploring the rea­sons behind women’s underrepresentation in the news, the persistence of male newsroom culture, as well as an update on the status of women in the field today,” the authors said.