On being a woman in publishing

I’d like to think that as both a woman and an ethnic minority, I’m pretty lucky. I’ve never experienced sexual harassment and I haven’t experienced any discernible discrimination in my career.

Granted, I graduated less than a year ago; this is really only the beginning for me. I’m 22, working in a sub-editing role in online media; although I’ve only held my title since earlier this year, I’ve worked in the biz in one way or another for 3-plus years. Heck, if you count all the unpaid writing I did for various websites throughout high school, we could take it back to 2002! Oh, and although you probably know this already, entry level starts from $30k (perhaps not so much in Auckland, but certainly in smaller towns).

Unlike, say, engineering or IT, media/publishing is pretty evenly split gender-wise. Going into third year journalism, it was definitely female heavy, but balanced out by a large proportion of post-grad male students (we shared virtually all our classes).

As women, do we have any advantages in the field? Perhaps some people may be more inclined to talk to young, pretty things. I can imagine it might be a plus in a situation like a doorknock (after a death); we’re often perceived as being more sensitive, less threatening, less hard-talking.

I’ve certainly noticed a dearth of females in more senior and management roles. The exception would probably be more on the magazine side (especially in lifestyle/fashion titles, obviously). No surprise there really; it’s a workforce-wide issue. This isn’t a 9-5 job – unless you’re a business writer, maybe – and not super-conducive to work-life balance.

One thing that’s always bugged me is that a friend of mine, whom I got a job here, was hired about six months after me at a higher rate. I got a raise and promotion earlier this year, and again, six months later, the same happened for him – again at a higher rate. Now, I’m not talking huge amounts…more like 50c-$1 per hour. But I’d really like to know if this is a matter of timing, or if this actually was a case of gender discrimination at play.

TV is a bit of a different beast. It doesn’t take much to realise that much like in Hollywood, age is definitely a barrier for women in TV news. (As for ethnicity, we won’t even venture there). Ex-journalist Janet Wilson caused a bit of a furore earlier this year when she blogged on the matter, accusing female telly reporters of being “all tits and teeth” while, looks and age aren’t, perhaps, so much factors for men.

But from my limited experience and observations, I don’t feel there’s any inherent bias against women in publishing. It’s about working your connections. It’s about tenacity. It’s about dedication. This is perhaps where some females (like myself) might struggle a bit; you need to be pushy sometimes, there’s no room for shame or shyness. Ultimately, your success will come down to your personality and how much you’re willing to put into your work.

How about you? Have you been a victim of discrimination; are you forced to work harder to prove yourself or is your industry pretty darn egalitarian? Share your experiences in the comments.

“If I were a Boy” Carnival

This post is part of a series of bloggers sharing their candid experiences or observations about women in the workplace which is not at all meant to be a male-bashing expedition whatsoever.

Please head over to these other wonderful bloggers and read about their experiences.

18 thoughts on “On being a woman in publishing

  1. My boss is sexist. Period. He was once telling me to send out an email to managers of the company. So, he says, “Tim, John, Bart, and TIM’S GIRL!” “Tim’s girl” is another manager who works closely with Tim. I also know that my supervisor had one hell of a time getting a pay increase when she was promoted to VP, even though the other VP – who is male – made much, MUCH more than she did. (We’re talking $40k more.) It’s not indicative of the field I’m in though. My boss is just a pig.

    In journalism, I had a much different experience than you did. I’ve only ever found a higher concentration of males to females, and in the U.S., media management is almost exclusively male. I didn’t experience any discrimination because of it, but it is interesting that on your side of the world, it’s the opposite.

    Also, I WISH we started at $30k. The newspaper I started at paid $19,700/year PRE-tax. I also dated a guy who got a job as a producer for the TV news station he interned with for a year. He started out at $22,000. I’m making more than him as a damn secretary. Lame.

  2. That’s such a good point I never thought about — people are more likely to talk to pretty young things.

    In my line of work, that works against me. They don’t take me as seriously because I’m the age of their daughter or son, and depending on how responsible or good their kids are, they project that mentality upon me and treat me like a child rather than an equal.

    It’d be so much easier to be at least 10 years older. In due time I guess :)

  3. @FB- but when you’re 10 years older you’ll want to be 10 years younger. I guess it would be good to LOOk 10 years older??? :)

    That totally sucks that your acquaintance got hired AFTER you and is making more than you. Is he “performing” better than you? Too bad people arent’ allowed to “talk” about how much they’re making at work because I would go up to that boss and ask him why… :)

  4. One thing that’s always bugged me…
    I watch the Business News Network all day (I work with a bunch of commodity traders). All of the women correspondents are EXTREMELY attractive (model quality) and young or appear to be at most 40, while all the men are well… not.
    Actually it’s a blessing, I’d get less work done if were some hot guys on the station.

  5. This is a really interesting topic, and something similar happened to my stepmum this year. She works as a translator for a large insurance provider and the other guy she works with got hired straight out of school, with no experience, at a MUCH higher salary – for doing the same job. I know at my work it’s not so much gender determined, but age determined – I’m by far the youngest person here and I’ve progressed through 3 or 4 different roles, and all the people that replaced me on the way up got salaries way higher than I was ever on. *Frown*

  6. Hmmmmm. very interesting views. I would think media, publishing, writing, etc are great fields for women and men. As for why your company doesn’t have more women in senior roles, no idea.

    I think if you want something bad enough, male or female, you will get there.

    Sam

  7. I wonder if your male friend negotiated a higher salary rather than just being offered a higher wage. I am reading Linda Babcock’s book Women Don’t Ask: The High Cost of Avoiding Negotiation–and Positive Strategies for Change where she writes men are four times more likely to ask for higher pay than women with the same qualifications. By neglecting to negotiate a starting salary for her first job, a woman may sacrifice over half a million dollars in earnings by the end of her career.
    I didn’t start negotiating my salary until I was well into my 30’s. When I was starting out I was just happy to be offered a job and am sure I undersold myself.

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