Nearly half of Australia’s female journalists have reported suffering “sexual harassment, intimidation or abuse” in the workforce.
So what does this mean for fresh, female journalism graduates?
Women in Media held an engaging workshop for female journalists on March 16 featuring panelists Mia Freedman (Mamamia), Mia Garlick (Facebook), Julie Posetti (Fairfax) and Strath Gordon (NSW Police).
Julie Posetti from Fairfax, who has conducted extensive research on “Twitterisation” (the introduction of Twitter to journalism), said social media has been a gift to journalism, but its introduction has led to increased gendered abuse.
“Female journalists who identify as feminists, report on politics and report on refugee issues are most likely to be targeted,” she said.
Mia Freedman, co-creator of Mamamia, said “once women stop speaking about their personal stories in the public eye [out of fear of abuse], that’s a loss for us all.” Freedman told the panel that many of her Mamamia colleagues are hesitant about putting their names to stories and writing about controversial issues out of fear of online trolls.
— Tracey Spicer (@TraceySpicer) March 16, 2016
— Flip Prior (@FlipPrior) March 16, 2016
In response to threats, Mia Garlick from Facebook encouraged young journalists to actively check their privacy settings and be diligent when choosing profile pictures for social media accounts. “If you are worried about your safety, take screenshots and the URL – this is what the police need,” continued Ms Garlick.
Tracey Spicer, national convener for Women in Media told The Newsroom: “My advice is this: Put it on the record. Go to HR and report the incident. The more people who report it, the less likely it will happen. This is the same for online harassment. Report it to your immediate supervisor.”
Wednesday night’s event follows the release of the Women in Media report which detailed progress for equality for women in media. The survey revealed “mates over merit” and “blokey culture” as frequent statements to describe the industry, whilst others highlighted the rapidly declining number of women “as you go up the food chain”.
“The media is often called a mirror of society. But it is failing to reflect our diversity,” commented Ms Spicer.
Although women in the realms of journalism have improved their standing in the workplace, most women still occupy low-profile positions and discrimination remains rife in the media workforce.
Women are subjected to a 23.3 per cent pay gap (according to the Workplace Gender Equality Agency) in most Information, Media and Telecommunications roles. Additionally, for female journalists with a more distinguished and long career, ageism is a concern.
Although policies have been put in place to prevent workplace discrimination against women, only 11 per cent of respondents said that they were effective.
“Out-dated attitudes and ineffective policies are holding women back from making their fullest and most creative contribution to the media landscape, at a time when innovation, diversity and new ways of thinking are desperately needed to meet the challenges of a new digital era,” said Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA) media director Katelin McInerney.
The MEAA recently ran an enlightening feature which included these thoughts:
Women in media speak out on…
Social media trolling
“Definitely – it’s had a huge impact including being the cause of changing my career as a journalist.”
Communications Manager, 21-25 years experience
“Quite constant death and rape threats when working in federal politics and writing a weekly column. It’s honestly par for the course for women in federal politics.”
In-house journalist, print, 11-15 years’ experience
“Yes. I block and report more often now, and don’t engage in controversial topics.”
Editor/Product, all media, 11-15 years experience
Undoubtedly, discrimination against female journalists in both the workforce and the public domain is immense and has had a huge impact, even resulting in leading some female journalists to change their careers.
Possible strategies proposed by Women in Media include action on the gender pay gap, improved strategies for social media harassment, increased collaboration with NSW Police and practical anti-discrimination policies. – Jessica Staveley