Why Female Journalists Fall Off The Career Ladder As They Hit Motherhood

Photo: ibtimes

Journalism is one of the most tasking careers anyone can pick. This is more so for women who have to give all their best including making sacrifices to excel in the career. Surviving in a profession with a peculiar male culture is not an easy task. Yet some women have managed to get to the apex of the journalism profession. This very interesting article takes a look at why less women are seen at the top of journalism profession. It is an ageless quality piece posted on The Guardian. It provides insight on how women strive to survive the rugged nature of journalism profession while few make it to the top.

Hands up who fell off the career ladder as they hit motherhood

When women become mothers, their working life is suddenly hobbled. It is true pretty well everywhere and nowhere more so than in journalism. Of course a distorted image of women’s lives protrudes from the newsstands. The higher up a newspaper’s hierarchy you travel, the fewer women there are to be seen. In all of history, it would take only the fingers of two hands to count up the women who have edited British national papers, and it is little better in the provinces. In newspapers, as in many other workplaces, women drop out, or at least drop off the career ladder, as they hit motherhood.
Today, the lobbying organisation Women in Journalism publishes a report on the state of – well, of women in journalism. To find out why women aren’t making a bigger contribution to shaping the daily agenda, WiJ members were asked about their experiences and opportunities at work. The survey prompted an outpouring of frustration and provided a catalogue of the problems all working mothers face. It also offers startling evidence of how little has changed. A generation after women first won the legal right to be treated equally, their daughters are facing hurdles just as daunting.
It is not only because it shapes the newspaper agendas that their experiences matter. Nothing has changed for millions of other women either.
The survey found that two in every three women leave salaried jobs to freelance rather than work the long hours – 50 or more per week, plus a couple of weekends every month – that are standard demands in journalism, as in other jobs, reinforced by a jacket-on-the-chair culture of presenteeism.
Only one in five had the chance of working flexible hours. The fear of seeming less committed than their male equivalents meant many of those who could have worked part- time or done a job-share didn’t take up the opportunity.
One award-winning journalist whose children are now teenagers told WiJ: “I have always down- played the difficulties, not least because there was no real solution except to negotiate fewer hours which would have meant a less prestigious job and less money, both of which would have been hard to deal with as a single parent and a committed journalist.”
Women are clearly delaying motherhood, if not putting it off altogether, for fear of losing the career they have fought to have. “I am worried about starting a family,” one woman wrote. “There are rumours here that women are dismissed if they be come pregnant.” (Er, this is journalism in Britain, not a sweatshop in the Philippines.)
Most mothers ended up driven out of the office and working from home. They trade the benefits of a staff job – the maternity leave and the holiday pay – for the flexibility of self-employment, working while the kids are at school or the baby is asleep. Like all homeworkers, they are easily exploited. “We are an invisible group,” wrote one woman who had looked after her elderly mother for years. Another said: “Editors expect you on call 24/7. Children have to be invisible.”
But what the WiJ survey also showed was a gently simmering resentment among women without children (and with grown-up ones), while some women working for small companies simply felt the red tape and the cost could be overwhelming. “The company I work for couldn’t afford it if I asked for maternity leave. I’m the company secretary, so I should know,” said one. But others – especially those who had struggled as freelancers while their children were young and had now returned to full-time work – simply felt the current generation of young women were demanding too much.
(Click here to read complete article)



The Author

Chinenye Nwabueze

Nwabueze is a communication researcher with several years of lecturing experience in Nigerian universities.

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