Women are set to outnumber men in Australian newsrooms according to a Bond University study.
‘Girls, girls, girls. A study of the popularity of journalism as a career among female teenagers and its corresponding lack of appeal to young males’ surveyed senior school students, along with career advisors and elite industry professionals, in an effort to explain the disproportionate number of female students enrolling in tertiary journalism programs.
The study revealed that girls are more likely to be attracted to a career in journalism than boys and found some disturbing gaps between the perceptions of teenagers about journalism and the realities of the career.
“Female television presenters were the most identified journalists, with a distinct lack of male literary, war, investigative and e-journalists nominated,” said study co-author and Head of the School of Communication and Media at Bond University, Professor Mark Pearson.
“While both genders agreed intelligence, seriousness and credibility were the top attributes of a male journalist, views on female journalists varied markedly.
“Boys viewed the main qualities of female journalists as ‘good looking’, ‘pushy’ and ‘nosey’, while their female teenage counterparts still ranked their top three qualities as ‘intelligent’, ‘serious’ and ‘credible’.
“Given their less than favourable view of female journalists, it is not surprising that the thought of working in a newsroom with such women might well be an intimidating prospect for a teenage boy,” he said.
Professor Pearson said the gender bias was being exacerbated in the offices of career advisors, who were more likely to encourage females to pursue a journalism career than males.
“Female high school students often have a superior ability in English and Humanities subjects, and are more likely to demonstrate the key character traits associated with journalism, such as confidence and assertiveness, so are encouraged to consider it as a career,” said Professor Pearson.
“But the complex analytical and creative written English rewarded in the senior school curriculum is far removed from the clear and concise English required in most forms of journalism.
“Boys who write simply and might be performing poorly in English could be being turned off the career for the wrong reasons,” Professor Pearson said.
“It is also contradictory that girls are being encouraged into journalism because they are good writers when the journalists they identify with most are television presenters, whose job involves minimal written work.”
Professor Pearson said the study revealed that teenagers were quite ignorant about many aspects of a journalism career and its importance to society.
“They are under the strong misapprehension that journalism is ‘full of travel opportunities’ – which we like to call the ‘Getaway Factor’ – and are relatively uninformed on other issues such as remuneration and work flexibility and the breadth of career options in the field.
“Students did not nominate literary or investigative journalists as journalists they were familiar with, which leads to a serious questioning of the place of non-fiction literature in the secondary school curriculum and the lack of the important role of the media in democracy in media studies, politics and history classes,” he said.