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Maverick Diaz
Maverick Diaz

Women And Journalism

In many countries, the majority of high profile journalists and editors remain male. Although there have been considerable changes in the prospects for women working in the media in the past few decades, women are still noticeably in the minority in the top journalistic roles, despite making up the majority of journalism students.

Women and Journalism


In this book, Suzanne Franks looks at the key issues surrounding female journalists - from onscreen sexism and ageism to the dangers facing female foreign correspondents reporting from war zones. She also analyses the way that the changing digital media have presented both challenges and opportunities for women working in journalism and considers this in an international perspective.

Women in journalism are individuals who participate in journalism. As journalism became a profession, women were restricted by custom from access to journalism occupations, and faced significant discrimination within the profession. Nevertheless, women operated as editors, reporters, sports analysts and journalists even before the 1890s[1] in some countries as far back as the 18th-century.

In 2018, a global support organization called The Coalition For Women In Journalism was formed to address the challenges women journalists face across different countries in the world. According to its founder, a Pakistani journalist Kiran Nazish, "Traditionally, women journalists have been doing it alone and they do need an infrastructure that helps guide them through their careers." She said in an interview, "The reason why women are not on the top is not because there aren't enough women or that they're not talented enough, it's purely that they need to help each other. That's why we were formed and that's why we would like to get as much support in from everyone in the industry."

According to a report released on 20 December 2017 by the Committee to Protect Journalists, in 2017, 42 journalists were killed because of their work worldwide, with 81 percent of those journalists male. This was slightly lower than the historical average of 93 percent of men journalists killed annually for their work, with The Intercept theorizing that the drop was perhaps due to women being assigned more frequently to dangerous locales.[3]

Until 2019, the problem of gender imbalance and lack of representation of women on platforms of success continued. After the British Journalism Awards 2019, the fewer bylines by women visible in the award caused a stir leading to a protest and a relaunch of Words By Women Awards.

Women journalists, whether they are working in an insecure context, or in a newsroom, face risks of physical assault, sexual harassment, sexual assault, rape and even murder. They are vulnerable to attacks not only from those attempting to silence their coverage, but also from sources, colleagues and others.[6] A 2014 global survey of nearly a thousand journalists, initiated by the International News Safety Institute (INSI) in partnership with the International Women's Media Foundation (IWMF) and with the support of UNESCO, found that nearly two-thirds of women who took part in the survey had experienced intimidation, threats or abuse in the workplace.[7]

In the period from 2012 through 2016, UNESCO's Director-General denounced the killing of 38 women journalists, representing 7 per cent of all journalists killed.[8] The percentage of journalists killed who are women is significantly lower than their overall representation in the media workforce. This large gender gap is likely the result of the persistent under-representation of women covering important beats and reporting from conflict, war-zones or insurgencies or on topics such as politics and crime.[9]

A report from The Coalition For Women In Journalism highlighted that during the first six months of 2019, women journalists were attacked every other day of the year. The report recorded 85 cases, where three women journalists were also killed. It noted that 35 women journalists were in prisons around the world during the first six months of the year. Around 20% of all the cases that were documented had to do with online harassment.[13]

Research undertaken by Pew Research Center indicated that 73 per cent of adult internet users in the United States had seen someone be harassed in some way online and 40 per cent had personally experienced it, with young women being particularly vulnerable to sexual harassment and stalking.[14]

An analysis of more than two million tweets performed by the think tank Demos found that women journalists experienced approximately three times as many abusive comments as their male counterparts on Twitter.[15]

The International Federation of Journalists and the South Asia Media Solidarity Network launched the Byte Back campaign to raise awareness and combat online harassment of women journalists in the Asia-Pacific region.[19]

The first woman in Denmark who published articles in Danish papers was the writer Charlotte Baden, who occasionally participated in the weekly MorgenPost from 1786 to 1793.[24] In 1845, Marie Arnesen became the first woman to participate in the public political debate in a Danish newspaper, and from the 1850s, it became common for women to participate in public debate or contribute with an occasional article: among them being Caroline Testman, who wrote travel articles, and Athalia Schwartz, who was a well known public media figure through her participation in the debate in the papers between 1849 and 1871.[24] In the 1870s, the women's movement started and published papers of their own, with women editors and journalists.

During the 19th century, it was not uncommon for women to participate in the French press, but the majority of them were not professional journalists but writers such as George Sand, who only contributed on a temporary basis. In the second half of the 19th century, the women's movement started their own magazines with female journalists, though they were seldom professional full-time reporters.

The history of women in journalism in Nepal is relatively new. Nepal only enjoyed an open press after the 1990 democratic movement. It is only since that change that women have been more active in the scene of journalism. The number of registered women journalists under the Federation of Nepalese Journalists is 1,613.[36]

Margareta Momma became the first identified female journalist and chief editor as the editor of the political essaypaper Samtal emellan Argi Skugga och en obekant Fruentimbers Skugga in 1738.[42] During the 18th century, many periodicals for, about, and likely also by women were published, but as women normally published under pseudonym, the can seldom be identified: one of the few identified ones being Catharina Ahlgren, who edited the typical women's periodical De nymodiga fruntimren (Modern Women) in 1773.[43] Women chief editors became fairly common during the 18th century, when the press in Sweden developed, especially since the widow of a male printer or editor normally took over the business of her late spouse: a successful and well known female newspaper editor was Anna Hammar-Rosén, who managed the popular newspaper Hwad Nytt?? Hwad Nytt?? between 1773 and 1795.[41]

Of the seven biggest newspapers in Stockholm, six had female co-workers prior to 1900, and when Swedish Union of Journalists was founded in 1901, women were included from the start.[41] An important event occurred in 1910, when the popular novel Pennskaftet by Elin Wägner made the journalist's profession a popular career choice for women, and women career journalists were often referred to as "pennskaft".[41] By this time, women reporters, though a minority, had become common and no longer regarded as a novelty, and the competition had become harder: in 1913, Stockholms Dagblad made a record by having seven female co-workers, and the same year, the Swedish Publicists' Association founded the De kvinnliga journalisternas stipendiefond to finance foreign trips for women reporters.[41] Women covered World War I and the Russian revolution and several women journalists became famed role models, including Ester Blenda Nordström, Anna Lisa Andersson and Elin Brandell.

The number of women contributing to British newspapers and periodicals increased dramatically as the 19th century progressed. This increase was partly due to the proliferation of women-only publications that covered society, arts and fashion as well as emerging topics such as feminism and women's suffrage. The trend was also accompanied by a slow-growing acceptance of women journalists in the more traditional press. By 1894, the number of women journalists was large enough for the Society of Women Writers and Journalists to be founded, By 1896, the society had over 200 members.[45]

After studying medicine at Edinburgh, Florence Fenwick Miller decided to follow a different course and turned to lecturing and writing instead. She was a keen proponent of women's suffrage and edited The Woman's Signal from 1895 until 1899. In 1886 she began a Ladies' Column for The Illustrated London News and continued it for 30 years. She contributed to a wide range of other publications during her career, including The Echo, Fraser's Magazine and The Woman's World.[45]

After a famous failed attempt to divorce her husband, Lord Colin Campbell, in 1886, Irish born Gertrude Elizabeth Blood turned to journalism. She contributed to the Pall Mall Gazette and wrote columns on a wide range of topics including art, music, theatre and fishing.[45]

Virginia Mary Crawford began writing for The Pall Mall Gazette in the 1880s after a much publicised divorce from her husband Donald Crawford. Her writing covered art, literature, women's rights and Catholicism. She played an active role in women's suffrage.

Beginning in the late 19th century, women began agitating for the right to work as professional journalists in North America and Europe; by many accounts, the first notable woman in political journalism was Jane Grey Swisshelm. A former correspondent for Horace Greeley's New York Tribune, she persuaded President Millard Fillmore to open the gallery in congress so that she could report on congressional news.[49] Prior to Swisshelm, Horace Greeley had employed another noteworthy woman in journalism, Margaret Fuller, who covered international news. Nellie Bly became known for her investigative reporting at the New York World. She was one of the first female journalists of her era to report by going undercover.


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