By Claire Goldberg
If women make up the majority of journalism students nationwide, then how come women make up only 1/3 of its professional workforce? The answer is rooted in statistics, sexism, and society itself, but groups like the Journalism And Women Symposium (JAWS) are helping to change this problem, especially in an age where the way we consume news itself is changing.
I am the child of two lifelong newspaper editors and have seen firsthand the frustration of a life in journalism. My mom is a member of JAWS, and last year when she held a chapter meeting at our house, I couldn’t believe how important it was to have a group of women who supported and learned from each other. There were stories of overt sexism in the workplace, but there were also stories about how other women had helped people like my mother get fantastic jobs in their fields. What was most striking, though, was how women of every age group and ethnic and racial background could relate so strongly to the facts of underrepresentation and patriarchic tendencies in the media.
Here at Georgetown, we are lucky to have multiple news outlets in many different forms. But college journalism is a different playing field from the professional world, where an emphasis may be put on experience, but corporate-controlled news sources inevitably have staff members with biases of race, ethnicity, and especially gender. Georgetown journalism professor Linda Kramer Jenning wrote in an email to me, “Early in my career with the Associated Press, it was not unusual to be one of a handful of women in a bureau…That has changed, in part due to the courageous women that successfully sued the AP, the New York Times, Newsweek and other media organizations for gender bias.”
Women can combat sexism and prove their leadership capabilities in a multitude of ways, but it takes real action and real organization to shift oppressive patterns. Jenning, also a part of JAWS, wrote about the group’s significance in helping women to succeed. “Founded 30 years ago,” Kramer Jenning writes, JAWS “recognized then that women would benefit from a supportive network. That remains true today. We provide trainings, career guidance/mentoring and share job leads. Our organization has tripled in size over the last five years or so, showing that a growing number of women appreciate the benefits of a nationwide professional network.”
My mother is now in the midst of a new job search, and though I can’t speak for her, I can only imagine the help JAWS must provide in connecting her with new possibilities. No matter how talented and experienced you are, how confident you are in your character or how successful your career has been, women still must band together and support each other in order to equalize the playing field. It doesn’t just take one woman in leadership to prove that society has changed; it takes every woman being able to assert herself in her field and having a fair fight in the workforce.