By Victoria Laurie
When the legendary Caroline Jones AO became the first woman appointed to anchor an Australian flagship current affairs program, the headline read ‘Girl will take over Four Corners’.
Caroline used to laugh when she recalled that sexist headline from 50 years ago, but she also admitted it spurred her on to help other media women.
Caroline was my co-patron at Women in Media, a national not-for-profit organisation that helps women working across the media landscape excel, learn, contribute, and connect.
Just what Caroline would make of our recently released Women in Media Industry Insight Report 2022 survey that found more than one in two women think media bosses are still not serious about gender equity, we’ll never know.
She died suddenly at her Sydney home in May.
But she would have been disappointed that half a century after the ‘girl’ headline, an above average 16% weekly earnings pay gap persists between men and women in our sector.
For nearly a decade, women have overtaken men among graduates of our journalism schools, yet 56% of our surveyed members wonder where their careers are going.
They are dissatisfied with their advancement and see a lack of opportunity as leading to male-dominated senior roles.
“Most of my editors and managers have been men, so I can’t see myself represented beyond a certain level,” one young award-winning reporter told me recently.
So what’s needed?
Greater transparency in pay levels, for one, and more opportunities for that young reporter to observe senior women rising to higher pay grades.
Caroline said her younger self felt that if she worked harder than men and proved her worth, she would rise above the sexism of her era.
But she knew from her conversations with dozens of current Women in Media members – working in newsrooms, communications and digital teams around the nation – that they work damned hard, and still the ranks of women thin out after reaching mid-level roles.
Caroline loved finding pathways out of problems.
She would have applauded the solutions we have identified in our survey – gender pay audits to reduce industry pay gaps, follow-the-leader ‘shadowing’ programs that provide access to leaders and career advancement, and micro-learning to build digital skills.
The Australian media boasts many respected and high-profile females, but when we are the people reporting daily on gender issues in society it is timely to turn the mirror on ourselves.
Our survey is a barometer of the media industry workforce.
If it tells us that a majority of women feel they face pay imbalances, heavy workloads and unclear pathways to promotion, we need to heed them and act.