If women dominate the journalism major in American Universities, why is it that men dominate both print and broadcast news rooms? Why are women held to certain standards in broadcast news that men are not? Why are female sports reporters locked into certain stereotypes?
Throughout history, women have always been looked at as inferior to men in the professional world. For centuries, a woman’s “rightful place” was in the home: cooking, cleaning and childrearing. Even in 2015, there are only 25 women on the Fortune 500 CEO list. According to the American Society of News Editors (ASNE), 37 percent of newspaper staffs are women and 41.1 percent of TV news staffs are women.
Women are not as likely as men to be quoted in news stories. When they are quoted, it is usually in a stereotypical way. Women tend to be referred to as wives, mothers or victims. In reality, women are executives, CEOs, athletes, researchers, etc. On the other hand, men are normally defined by their job or career in news stories, not as husbands or fathers.
In the DFW area, the majority of anchors on popular news networks are men. Female anchors are typically white, with great hair and makeup, and what Americans would consider very pretty. Older men typically report the nightly news with a younger female anchor. Some DFW networks are trying to reflect the large number of minorities in the metroplex, but most are failing. Here are a few examples. You decide if they are diverse enough in both gender and race.
A lot can be said about the sideline reporter stereotype that women fall under in sports journalism. Perhaps at one time women were not as involved in athletics and professional sports as men, but that has definitely changed. Now women are just as knowledgable and sometimes more knowledgable about athletics than men. Unfortunately, it is still very unusual for a NFL, NBA or NHL team to have a female commentator. They instead are field or sideline reporters. What will it take for women to break out of this stereotype?
One of the best examples of the stereotypes that female sports reporters face is from the Bleacher Report. It has listed “The 40 Most Popular Female Sports Reporters.” Under each reporters name is a photo and a short bio. Unfortunately, the photos are not all professional, reporter head shots. They include rather sexualized images.
The bios list all of the important information such as the reporter’s employer and past experience. But hidden within a majority of the bios are stereotypes stemming from descriptions of the women. These include cheerleader, pageant winner, “Lingerie Football League reporter,” brother, fiancé, model, ballet dancer, field reporter, sideline reporter, beauty and beauty queen. In one bio the writer even says, “Believe it or not, [name] actually worked as a Wall Street trader at Bear Stearns.” Why would anyone not believe it? Is it that much of a stretch that a woman would be a Wall Street trader? Even if the writer is referring to her successful career after working for a company that collapsed in 2008, it still encourages a stereotype. I think the worst part of it all is that the article is written by a woman! It only enforces the negative stereotypes against female sports reporters.
So what does it all really mean? Perhaps news consumers are only getting male viewpoints. Perhaps news consumers are subconsciously and unintentionally enforcing stereotypes against women in the journalism field after being exposed to them so consistently. Is this creating a social problem? Is this reinforcing incorrect and sexist perceptions of women by men as well as other women? My answer is yes.
All those in power need to view men and women as equals inside and outside the professional world. This would increase the chance that men and women would be treated equally in the journalism field. It would also increase the chance of social norms transforming to reflect equality.