Why is it that journalism classrooms are beaming with female students but as they step out of the classroom and into the newsroom or boardrooms, their numbers begin to drastically dwindle? This dwindle usually correlates with age, longevity in the practice and vertical ascension onto the higher echelons of the profession. Do they leave of their own volition or are they pushed out?
As a former journalist (with a bounty of toxic experiences) and now, a journalism scholar I am ever curious to hear women and men’s understanding of this dillema. Are the mechanisms of disenfranchisement stable especially with the digital turn within the media ecology or are they changing? Are women making large strides towards equality, acceptance and respect or is it the same old story?
That Journalism has been considered a male profession is well documented. The point of departure here is the argument that the profession as well as the societies they serve are richer with an equal representation not only with content matters but also in the employment practices and patterns.
It is understood that journalism plays a crucial role in informing, representing and mirroring soceity. The role of media and journalism as the ‘fourth estate’ is heavily anchored in its mandate as a powerful social change agent, for its watch-dog functionality and being the voice for the voiceless. The argument followsthat, in any society, both women and men contribute to their societal development and by the same token, both should be equally represented in all mechanisms of its operation. And here-in lies a nuance, women and men are often affected differently by any given discourse – making diveristy of voice both necesary and detrimental.
Thus, for pertinent societal issues to be articulated accurately, there is need for a balanced representation not just on matters of the content but also among the framers and agenda-setters. For instance, the Global Media Monitoring Project (GMMP) that audits, every 5 years, the gender situation in the media industry, has time and time again proven that stories covered by female journalists are more gender balanced and challenge unequal statusquo as they make sure to include female sources and perspectives as opposed to their male counterparts.
So, back to the leaking pipeline dilema. Both from experience and research: sexism, gender stereotyping, mysogyny, minority status, poor support structures, resistance to change, lack of safety, hegemony of patriarchy, sexual harrassment, hegemonic femininity, symbolic annihilation and the triple roles of women are just a few of the culprits that individually or collectively explain the leaking pipeline.
In other words, when PUSHED into a corner often due to the convergences of the above challenges – with no support structures, no visible or accessible role models or change in sight – many women then choose to JUMP – leaving in their wake, continuities and a vicious circle that is detrimental to the profession and humanity.
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