New Study: Women Editors Find Sexism At Work

By: Joe Strupp

Updated at 11 a.m. EST, Sept. 27

Almost half of top women editors questioned in a new survey said they expect to leave their current company or the news business altogether, while only 20% say they definitely want to move up in the industry. Only one in three expect to move up at their current paper. Among those women who believe they are blocked from advancement, 64% cite sexism as the culprit.

The survey was jointly released by the American Press Institute and the Pew Center for Civic Journalism on Thursday. The telephone poll, first made public at an API seminar in Reston, Va., on women in newsroom leadership, was conducted by Selzer & Co. of Des Moines, Iowa.

“This brings to light a whole class of women struggling to move up,” said Ann Selzer, president of Selzer & Co. and the study’s author. “They feel like they don’t have the tools to make it happen.”

The survey questioned editors, managing editors, and assistant managing editors at newspapers with daily circulations of 50,000 or higher between Aug. 28 and Sept. 17, 2002. Of the 273 people interviewed, 202 were men and 71 were women.

The study found that men and women editors tended to have similar leadership traits, visions for newspaper content, and job satisfaction. Where they differed, however, was in the outlook on prospects for advancement, drive to move-up, and need for time with family.

The survey comes just a few months after a study by the Media Management Center at Northwestern University showed a two-year decline, to 20% from 25%, in the percentage of top editors at major papers who are women. “The scary thing is the number of women who are planning to leave the business,” said Jan Schaffer, Pew Center executive director. “That is a problem.”

Other findings from the API/Pew study showed 27% of the women predicted they would prematurely leave the newspaper industry altogether, while just 6% of men expected to depart. Thirty-five percent of the women polled said they would probably not be promoted to the next level at their current paper, compared to just 24% of the men.

More than half (64%) of women who believed they would not have the opportunity to move up cited as the reason their employer’s preference for hiring men for the job. Forty percent said they were not politically savvy enough, compared to 12% of men.

Of those women who predicted no promotion, nearly half (46%) said they did not want to move up. Among them, 48% cited a need for more family or personal time, compared with 35% of men.

In their roles as newsroom leaders, men and women held similar views on most issues of news judgement, management style, and priorities. But a few differences emerged. On the subject of management, 72% of women believed handling numerous challenges with ease was crucial, compared to 53% of men. Thirty-nine percent of women also rated managing office politics as crucial, while only 25% of men did.

When asked how they would go about tackling a big project, 31% of men said they would craft their own plan and sell it to others, while only 21% of women would take that approach. More women than men said they would actively seek input from others.

Fulfilling the stereotype, they also differed over how much attention to give to sports. Forty-five percent of women believed sports received too many resources, while only 22% of men felt that way.

More women also named community and civic leadership as priorities, with 58% saying their ability to be a community leader was a strength, compared to only 32% of men.

To read E&P‘s recent cover story on women editors, click here.

For more information, visit the American Press Institute’s Web site:

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