The times they aren’t a-changin’

©The Guardian website:  Clockwise from top left: Amanda Wilson, Natalie Nougayrède, Jill Abramson and Sylvie Kauffmann.  ©Photographs: Alfonso Calero, AFP, Tim Knox

©The Guardian website:
Clockwise from top left: Amanda Wilson, Natalie Nougayrède, Jill Abramson and Sylvie Kauffmann.
©Photographs: Alfonso Calero, AFP, Tim Knox

It seems incredible to think that less than 40-odd years ago journalism and the Australian media industry were purely boys only games. Women were rarely seen as journalists or media personalities, except of course for the weather girl on the nightly news.

In 1972, Queen of the Australian media industry, Ita Buttrose, revolutionised female journalism forever with a new Women’s magazine, Cleo. Finally, women in the Australian media were getting some opportunities and recognition, and it’s a relief to see how far we’ve come since. Or have we not gone anywhere?

Cision statistics of Women in the media industry, US, 2009.

Cision statistics of Women in the media industry, US, 2009.

Earlier this week ex-Sydney Morning Herald editor Amanda Wilson wrote an article on the Guardian’s website that seemed to express how every female in the media industry feels. Wilson became the first (and only) woman to hold the position of Editor-In-Chief in the paper’s 180-year history. She spent less than two years at the helm of the paper – between early 2011 and 2012 – before graciously stepping down due to pressures from her bosses.

Unsurprisingly, when she was at the top job she faced numerous threats and instances of casual to extreme sexism from those she was employed by and those she employed.

The article received praise from all over the internet, including Mamamia founder Mia Freedman:

News Editor of The Guardian Australia, Lee Glendinning:

Even Amnesty International Scotland had their praise to give to Wilson:

In the last week, executive editor of the New York Times, Jill Abramson, and editor-in-chief of the French title Le Monde, Natalie Nougayrède, were both forced out of their jobs because of misogynistic accusations of authoritarianism and being “too bossy”. These are typical excuses for employees of female bosses who supposedly give them a difficult time, probably just as difficult as a male boss would in that position.

Clearly, this is an issue on the minds of many females in the industry. Last week senior lecturer at UTS and feminist activist, Jenna Price, wrote a piece on The Conversation about the changing gender politics in the newsroom. Ex-Philadelphia Inquirer editor, Amanda Bennett, wrote an article about on Jill Abramson’s dismissal on The Washington Post’s website.

But it’s Wilson’s words that seem to summarise the true hopes and aspirations for female journalists in the future:

“Women in media understand how to tell stories about and for women… seeing the names and faces of women in the media day in and day out, their words quoted, their achievements noted, their opinions sought.”

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5 responses to “The times they aren’t a-changin’

  1. It is so good seeing women in the media come together and support each other in such a public way. I think there is still stereotypical responses to women in lead roles in contemporary society. It is staggering to still see the discrepency in the number of females in the media compared to males. Much like a newsroom room needs cultural diversity, it also needs to have a gender balance for different perspectives and understandings on particular issues. Women and men have the same capabilities, and deserve the same recognition and opportunities in the media.

  2. A very well researched and written article, Jade. We can only hope that generational evolution will see the imbalance corrected.
    If I can pick up on the “bossy” reference. This is a constant battle for my wife and me and our 7yo daughter. We are trying to teach her to be assertive and to lead (within 7yo appropriate limits, of course) and to teach her that it’s okay to assume these dispositions, to do so with good grace and manners.
    We deplore the term bossy. It’s a misogynistic, double standard label, indecently applied to women who dare to shine.
    Stay well, and warmest regards,
    Jeff.

  3. As a young female journalism student, this is a current issue that has definitely grabbed my attention. It’s shocking to see the treatment of some women in the media industry, though unfortunately, I don’t feel this sexist attitude is limited to just the media industry. Women in Female Australian’s continually face challenges in the workplace and I don’t know what it will take for equality to be achieved.

    However, I don’t feel the sacking of women, such as Natalie Nougayrede, should always be classified at ‘misogyny’. Perhaps she was “bossy” and authoritarian, how is the public to know? I can’t help but wonder if crying ‘misogyny’ every time a women gets fired is helping the cause or simply assuming the worst of our male colleagues. Because isn’t that misogyny too?

  4. I agree, sexism in the media industry needs to be challenged and taken seriously by those in positions of power. It’s great to see women speaking out and supporting each other on the issue.

    However, I also agree with millsa17, perhaps we can get a little too worked up when a woman is fired or at the receiving end of a critical comment.

  5. As a young female aspiring journalist this issue hits close to home. Sexism in the media, or more precisely, in any workplace is disgraceful! It’s great to see women banning together and speaking out.

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