Journalism is an exciting profession which keeps you at the forefront of events in the society. As a watchdog, people rely on you to inform and enlighten them on developments in their immediate and larger environment. However, this profession is seen as a man’s job across the world. This is because whereas journalism and mass communication training schools are dominated by women, only very few of them end up practicing journalism. Some female graduates of these training schools might want to attempt practicing journalism but could get discouraged by the unpalatable experiences women journalists get in the field. Some get into journalism and get out as fast as they could especially when they look at the future and see how ‘bleak’ it looks for women in the profession.
The situation is the same in Nigeria but the reasons for this might differ slightly among countries probably due to socio-cultural and other environmental factors. Here’s a list of top 10 reasons why women do not practice journalism in Nigeria.
1. Culture: This is one of the major reasons why women are discouraged from practicing journalism not just in Nigeria but most African countries. This could come in different ways. In any typical African setting a woman is expected to be some form of house keeper, staying with the kids and taking care of domestic affairs. If you have to work then you must find a way to combine your house-keeping duties and that job. Journalism is a job that could keep you at work for lengthy hours. In fact, long hours of work is a feature associated with journalism practice. You’re either following up a source or staying late in the office to file a story. African culture also frowns at the level of boldness journalism bestows on the practitioners. You are emboldened to speak to sources no matter how highly placed, pursue a story no matter where it leads you and take up daring challenges in the line of duty. Some men in specific cultures might see such a lady as a wild woman who would disrespect her husband. This strange factors discourage women from practicing journalism in Nigeria.
2. Macho Newsroom Culture: This refers to male domination of the journalism profession which also reflects on daily newsroom activities. Macho newsroom culture talks about an atmosphere of work which makes you feel this job is mainly for men. You see it in the concepts used to even refer to practitioners (Gentlemen of the press), assignment of beats to cover, dominance of managerial position in the media by men, among others. The woman is somehow made to feel or think this is not a place for her to build a career. This is a general factor affecting female journalists across the world.
Polly Curtis, editor-in-chief, HuffPost, one of the leading online news websites in the United States of America, once said in an interview, “I have experienced extremely male-dominated cultures in journalism that I found very difficult at times. I also had long stretches of my career when it just wasn’t an issue. At its worst I’ve seen how off-putting that macho culture can be for younger women coming into newsrooms.”
She further observed that this situation was changing but not fast enough. According to her, “You can look across news organisations and see close to gender parity in terms of numbers but who is getting the front page bylines? Who is making the calls on what the most important news stories of the day are? Who is doing the hiring? Having gender parity at all levels of seniority is important.”
Curtis also notes: “Part of the problem is the loss of women from the most senior positions once they have kids so that leadership teams and news editors are disproportionately male. Anything that helps women continue to progress after they have children will help ensure newsrooms reflect the world they are reporting on.”
It is clear that macho news room culture is a discouraging factor for women enrollment in journalism practice.
3. Marriage: This is a factor related to both culture and macho newsroom culture but it requires emphasis as a separate point. Because of the tasking nature of journalism profession, marriage tends to discourage some Nigerian women from becoming journalists. Some ladies especially in Nigeria feel that taking care of the family, running around the house looking after kids, giving attention to your husband, could prevent a woman from becoming journalists. In fact, some ladies in Nigeria have had to leave the journalism profession immediately they got married. Some other men might not want their wives to be going after male sources in search of stories or staying late at work to file stories. In some conservative African societies, female journalists are seen as wayward, so to get married some ladies decide not to become journalists. This might look extreme but it happens. In fact, one of the stereotypes about female journalists in Nigeria is that they do not marry early. This scares a few ladies away from the job.
4. Nature of Work: Journalism is tasking, tedious, and daring. Those who practice it efficiently and seriously will tell you it is not an easy job but that you’ll definitely enjoy it. Work schedule could discourage women from practicing journalism. You could be instructed to follow up a news source, probably male news source that you might have to wait for in his hotel to grant you interview. This is no big deal in the western world but in some societies in Africa, Nigeria inclusive, work schedule could be a factor making it difficult for women to take up journalism as a profession. You can also be sent to investigate an incident which so many might feel is not a safe task for a woman to embark on. The nature of work tends to feed the macho newsroom culture because women are majorly assigned beats such as fashion and entertainment while crime and political beats that require extra-mile investigations are assigned to men. This is not the case in every news organization as there are countries where the bravest investigative reporters are women.
5. Religion: Some women keep away from journalism due to religious doctrines. The first thing that comes to mind is the Moslem religion which might limit the flexibility required of women as journalists. But Christianity could also be a factor here for some women. For instance, some Churches might be steadfast on dressing especially not allowing women to wear trousers, and a female journalist might need to be on trousers for some kinds of investigation. This might be a factor too. Someone who attends a church that has a conservative dress code might stay away from journalism. Also, some ladies feel that work schedule of journalists does not give a good moral image for a Christian woman.
6. Stereotype: Every profession has its own stereotype. Some are too extreme while others are a bit mild. Stereotypes against women journalists in Nigeria are a bit harsh. A few women might keep away from journalism practice because of that. For instance, female journalists are said to be wayward, wild, flirts, not submissive to their husband, don’t marry early, among others. These are stereotypes but serious women don’t consider stereotypes before deciding on a career path to follow. No matter what you say about the profession they remain focused on their goal and end up achieving it. However, you can’t rule out the negative influence of stereotypes on low presence of Nigerian women in journalism profession.
7. Career Prospect: The fact that men dominate managerial positions in the media could make some women feel they do not have a future in journalism. With editorial positions dominated by men, not just in Nigeria but across the globe, a woman could feel she might not get to the top in this job even if she puts in enough effort. Polly Curtis, editor-in-chief, HuffPost, noted that the presence of more women in the newsrooms especially at editorial level will help encourage more women to choose journalism as a career path. According to her, “In the HuffPost newsroom we are majority female which is incredibly important for our journalism. Our readership is 58% women and we need to reflect our audience in order to connect with them and understand what they care about. Having women in the most senior positions in newsrooms is the first way to start fixing the problem.”
Curtis also alluded that pregnancy could be a factor for he shortage of women in managerial positions in media houses. According to her, part of the problem is the loss of women from the most senior positions once they have kids, which means that leadership teams and news editors become disproportionately male. She then suggests that whatever helps women continue to progress after they have children will help ensure newsrooms reflect the world they are reporting on. This postulation by Curtis was pointed out in an earlier discourse on Macho Newsroom Culture. It is also a relevant observation regarding the need to encourage more women to take up journalism as a career.
8. Interest: This deals with area of specialization. If you ask a number of ladies in Mass Communication training schools which aspect of the discipline they would like to major in when they graduate most of them will talk about advertising and public relations. Those who opt to work in the media want to be newscasters and programme presenters, not exactly broadcast journalists. So interest is also a factor that is responsible for dominance of men in Nigeria’s journalism landscape.
9. Laziness: This might sound harsh but some women do not want ‘skin pain’ especially the type that journalism ‘offers’. Journalism is tasking, tedious and daring. Not everyone, including men, want to experience such stress for a remuneration that is far from commensurate.
10. Poor Remuneration: It will be quite unfair to women if this list is concluded without adding this factor. Poor remuneration and almost non-existent welfare package is a major factor that discourages both men and women from journalism practice in Nigeria. Some media organisations owe staff for months, some don’t even pay at all, and you realize this after you’ve earned your first salary. That’s when you find out that the establishment was ‘designed’ not to pay anybody. You are expected to survive on Brown Envelope (gratifications from news sources for writing their stories favourably). No woman wants to work where she won’t get paid; not after showing commitment to the job and damning whatever stereotype that follows the profession. She needs to be well paid for doing a good job.
These are among the basic reasons why women in Nigeria refuse to practice journalism. If there’s any factor you do not agree with or may be there’s one we left out do let us know in the comment session.