Reflecting on the Intersection of Ageism and Sexism in the Newsroom

An intersectional approach of analysis confirms that ageist and sexist practices towards women contribute to the underrepresentation of women in news media. According to the GMMP 2015 Global Report, women between the ages of 19-34 years old are twice more likely than women in the age range of 50-64 years old to appear in the news. These statistics are found to be the opposite with regards to male presenters, as the shared assumption that an individual’s experience is based on their age and the length of time they have been working in the industry is more likely to be applied to men rather than women in the news media sector.

Women in younger age ranges presenting the news are more likely to be present as they are “more appealing to the eye” and are meant to attract more viewers for the corporations. Hence, women in the older age categories are underrepresented further due to the ageist beliefs surrounding body image. Consequently, what happens when we type the words “female news anchors” in a Google search?  Today, results at the top of the page has images of well-known news anchors that are women whom we frequently see on television. Most of them fall within the 19-34 or 35-49 years old age ranges. Occasionally, we find an anchor or journalist in the 50-64 years old age range, such as Katie Couric who has been in the news industry for decades and her work has been found in a number of different broadcasting agencies. Underneath those images, the top three websites that come up are titled as the following: “30 Sexiest Female News Anchors From Around the World,” “40 of The World’s Most Beautiful Female News Anchors,” and “Top 10 Hottest Women News Anchors Around the World.”

The displayed results demonstrate the notion that female news anchors are highly recognized by their appearances more frequently than their work experience, which reinforces the gender stereotype that women’s predominantly recognizable quality is her physical beauty and not her abilities. Why do we not see “Top 10 significant journalism pieces by women,” or “30 Female News Anchors who conducted interviews with influential figures” in these searches as the top results?
The few occasions where women in journalism and broadcasting are celebrated for their success and work in the field are women outside of the 19-34 and 35-49 age range. A well-known example being Katie Couric who has been in the news media industry for a significant period of time with independent talk shows, covering a variety of different topics from politics and social justice to entertainment, and has interviewed influential people, political leaders, and A-list celebrities.

In the discourses surrounding the topic of news for women by women, such ideologies surrounding young women in the news industry is an example to demonstrate why it is essential. Having young women dominate the newsroom should be encouraged, as it is necessary for increasing women’s representation in the news and encouraging young women to aspire for such occupations. Though, it is critical to understand the underlying reasons why newsrooms hire more young women. Some corporations may do so for the purpose of claiming that they follow their gender policy, without understanding the initial purpose of the policy in the first place. Others may do so to increase viewership.

In response to dismantling the stereotypical ideologies surrounding young women and their appearance being seen as the dominant identification trait, the news media sector can work towards changing these ideologies through the frequent promotion of their journalists and presenters work to raise consciousness about their capabilities over their appearances.  

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Advancing gender equality in media

In my opinion, the most effective strategy to achieve gender-sensitive media is:

Increased gender-awareness training of media professionals
Greater action by audiences to hold their media accountable
Stricter enforcement of gender-focussed media codes and policies
More female journalists, editors and media house managers

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#MeToo #TimesUp

In my view, society is less tolerant of sexist stereotypes in the media now than three years ago.

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