It is important to treat us with equality, respect my opinions and suggestions just as you do the men’s, by doing so, it means that you have to adapt my ideas, count on me in leadership roles, trust me, and believe in my administrative capabilities
LAUSANNE, July 29, 2020: As a 19-year-old cadet journalist working for a newspaper in the late 1970s, Roslyn Morris would write “all manner of articles”, take and develop photos, produce newspaper supplements, drive the paper to the printers and even deliver stacks of papers to newsagents. “I felt very important doing this,” she recalls. However, she realized years later that her boss at the time, a man, “was being paid quite handsomely for my work” and she resolved to not let that happen again.
“Throughout my career working as a TV, radio, and newspaper journalist in Australia I was a member of the Australian Journalists’ Association and covered by an award that dictated salaries according to experience for both men and women,” she explains.
The AIPS Honorary Secretary-General shared this story during the penultimate session of the AIPS Seminar entitled “The Cost of Reporting While Female”. In the meeting, held via Zoom on Tuesday, Morris (Australia), alongside Leila Behferhat (Algeria), Christine Brennan (USA) and Rica Roy (India), established that lack of respect and limited opportunities - influenced by a deep-rooted patriarchal mentality - are some of the factors fueling gender pay gap in society.
Unfortunately, many women journalists across the globe still have to work more for less or even no pay, decades after Morris’ experience.
MALE DOMINATED HIERARCHY She may have been “fortunate enough to never be paid any less than a man of the same experience”, but she points out an underlying discrepancy. “The problem is the entrenched male-dominated hierarchy where men flourish and women’s careers and thus remuneration remain stagnant. In many cases, more qualified women are overlooked for promotions and pay rises in favor of men.”
In explaining a lack of opportunities, Morris shared a story of two young women who were assigned to report on a breaking news story involving several deaths in a small community. They carried out this task so passionately and painstakingly; from door knocking for interviews to writing up the story as it developed. But all that hard work was sacrificed at the altar of sexism so that their male counterpart, who was not involved in the reporting, could “get experience”, according to the senior editor.
The lady, who narrated this incident to Morris, was taken off television coverage of the breaking news story for the male journalist, who also got his name on the byline when the story got published online.
“Two young women were sent out to do the tough, emotional, sensitive work, and (not that public credit is ever why we do the job) a young man was given the credit and subsequent opportunities that arose from it,” Morris says.
EQUAL TREATMENT Leila Behferhat could not agree less. She has been working for the Algerian public television since 2001 and is one of the first Arab commentators on both women's and men’s football matches on Algerian television. “To start with, we can say that female sports journalists in the Arab world are being looked at from a perspective of inferiority,” she observes, adding that women are largely undervalued as their opinions and suggestions are usually regarded as unimportant.
“It is important to treat us with equality, respect my opinions and suggestions just as you do the men’s, by doing so, it means that you have to adopt my ideas, count on me in leadership roles, trust me, and believe in my administrative capabilities,” she states.
Just as Morris learnt from her research, even in some countries where female journalists are paid the same as their male counterparts, disparity still exists in other rights and benefits, including opportunities for career advancement.
She also found out that some countries like the former Soviet state Moldova are still in “the dark ages” when it comes to pay parity. “I’m told the pay gap doesn't exist as such, because there are currently only two female sports journalists. Young women wanting to follow a career in sports journalism have to work extra hard, and in many cases, according to my colleague, are not compensated – they do it out of love. And this eagerness is exploited,” she laments.
EFFECT OF THE PANDEMIC In India, the percentage of women that join the workforce has fallen to 24 from 27 in 2014. “India ranks 120 among 131 countries in female labour force participation rate - rates of gender based violence remain very high,” Rica Roy, Deputy Editor at New Delhi Television, says. And the situation is getting worse because of the global pandemic.
Regarding the fate of women in journalism, especially with the pandemic dealing a crippling blow to the newspaper industry, Rica says “the pages that employ women more - culture, feature, society, entertainment, and environment were few of the firsts to be knocked out.”
She continues: “While in Digital media there are a lot more women, in TV