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Women in media face disparity on the job, according to FIU survey

Women in the media make less money and are less likely to hold management positions than their male counterparts, according to a survey by the Lillian Lodge Kopenhaver Center for the Advancement of Women at Florida International University.
Women in the media make less money and are less likely to hold management positions than their male counterparts, according to a survey by the Lillian Lodge Kopenhaver Center for the Advancement of Women at Florida International University. MCT

Media folks know how to handle bad news. Here’s some that hits particularly close to home for women in the business.

A new survey by the Lillian Lodge Kopenhaver Center for the Advancement of Women in Communication found that women in journalism and communications make less money, are less likely to hold management positions and are more likely to feel passed over for promotions because of their gender.

“My first reaction when I started looking through the responses to the survey was: ‘Darn it. This is just really disappointing,’” said Judy Turk, a research fellow who conducted and analyzed the survey for the center at Florida International University. “We know this has been an issue for at least a decade, probably more than a decade, and regardless of what we have done, it really hasn’t been enough to move the needle.”

In the survey, women reported lower salaries than did men, despite being better-educated. Men, on the other hand, tended to have more experience — probably because women were more likely to interrupt their careers to take care of family.

The mean salary reported was between $75,000 and $100,000 for all communications professionals. Only 9 percent of minorities said they make that much, and a majority of women, 53 percent, said they earn less than the mean.

Only 24 percent of top management positions — think CEO, publisher or president — were found to be held by women. Men were three-times more likely to hold top spots in media organizations.

Why don’t women hold those positions? Of those who had been bypassed for promotions, a majority of women felt a “men-only” culture was the reason.

“There is disparity. A pretty gaping disparity. And in many cases, if you even out education and years of experience in the field and the current job, it really comes down to nothing but gender as a possible explanation,” Turk said.

Lillian Lodge Kopenhaver, founder and executive director of the self-named center, said it will take everyone — men and women — to spur change.

“It’s important that people listen, all people, that we still are a long way to achieving equality,” said Kopenhaver, a dean emeritus and professor at FIU. “We’re so far away from doing that.”

The results are based on surveys of more than 1,000 media professionals across the country. The questionnaires were distributed through professional organizations.

The numbers are particularly startling when you consider that a majority of communications students are women, said Professor Cristina Azocar, chair of the Journalism Department at San Francisco State University. She suspects women get frustrated in male-dominated offices and strike out on their own, taking with them the kinds of stories and perspectives that could appeal to wider audiences.

“When you have a homogenous population covering and reporting the news, then you’re going to get news that only a certain population is interested in, and therefore you potentially risk losing readers and viewers and advertisers,” Azocar said. “It doesn’t do anything for democracy.”

Christina Veiga: 305-376-2029, @cveiga

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