Fifty years ago, it was almost impossible to find a female journalist in most testosterone-filled news organizations. And while the field has diversified over the past five decades, it seems that the number of women in newsrooms has disappointingly stagnated.
A study released by Media Matters For America in June of this year found that women make up only 38 percent of newsroom staff -- a figure that has remained the same for the past 14 years, and one that, according to Christy C. Bulkeley of the Nieman Foundation For Journalism at Harvard University, is a mere four percent higher than the percentage of female newspaper reporters 30 years ago. Media Matters For America also found that women are underrepresented in newsroom leadership positions, comprising only 34.6 percent of newsroom supervisors in 2013.
While this is certainly an issue of equality in a single professional field, its consequences are further-reaching. Studies have found that when women's voices are absent in newsrooms, the stories of women around the world are more likely to go unreported. As the Global Media Monitoring Project concluded in 2005 after finding that only 21 percent of news subjects -- the people who are interviewed or whom the news is about -- are female: "The world we see in the news is a world in which women are virtually invisible.”
Luckily, there are organizations out there who recognize this problem and are creating opportunities for women's voices to be heard in the media. For example, WAM! (Women, Action, & the Media) facilitates networking and skill-sharing amongst female journalists. And the Op-Ed Project's goal, according to their website, is to, "increase the number of women thought leaders contributing to key commentary forums -- which feed all other media, and drive thought leadership across all industries -- to a tipping point."
We think it's high time that news publications realize the value of women's voices -- and act on that realization through their hiring practices.