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More pay, more power needed in WA – By Dr Bonita Mason

More pay, more power needed in WA – By Dr Bonita Mason

Folker Hanusch’s article in The Conversation, titled “Women overtake men in the media, but not in pay or power” shows us there is still much to be done to achieve wage and seniority parity for women in Australian newsrooms.

The University of the Sunshine Coast study, conducted by Folker Hanusch and others, provides a snapshot of mainstream, newsroom journalists as we are now. It reflects the discrimination and inequality evident in what Anne Summers calls the persistent wage gender gap in the Australian economy.

Despite hope and expectations in the 1970s that the wage gap between women and men would close, in 2013 Australian women earn only 83.5 per cent of their male counterparts, a wage gap of 17.5 per cent. In WA, that figure is worse: the wage gap is 25 per cent.

And the position of women is worse in journalism. The study concludes that while 55.5 per cent of journalists are women, only 7.4 per cent are senior managers, compared to 21.6 per cent male journalists making it to senior management positions. Once women do make it, they are still paid less.

The relevant figures from the study here are the wages of men and women at the same levels of seniority. At all levels, the study finds “women have significantly lower salaries than men”: 53.1 per cent of male journalists earn more than $72,000 per year, where only 35.6 per cent of women earn the same figure.
At senior editorial levels, only 1.2 per cent of women earn more than $144,000 per year, compared with 9.8 per cent of men.

These figures are worth repeating because they provide evidence for something that Women in Media has always known: that women in media need more recognition and support, for themselves, for the good of journalism and for the good of society.

WIM in WA is a small, dedicated group of volunteers who organise events through the year that provide a combination of professional development, networking, support and mentoring opportunities. Examples of our events have included sessions on women in Afghanistan, sport reporting and how new and social media is affecting mainstream journalism. We support and mentor young women to get published, make contacts and develop networks and, most importantly, grow in confidence.

The WIM model has been so successful in WA that the MEAA is looking at supporting the model nationwide, so there may soon be similar WIM groups in each of the states and territories. Young journalists have also approached WIM in WA for advice and support to set up a similar network for people new to the media. These developments can only help to improve the situation in Australian newsrooms for women, including young women.

As Hanusch notes, the majority of students studying journalism are young women. While this fact is yet to show up in the wages and seniority statistics in our media organisations, these young students give hope for change.

WIM will continue to be there, right beside them.

For those interested in other research and reporting on these and similar issues, visit the https://www.uts.edu.au/research-and-teaching/our-research/australian-centre-independent-journalism website. It contains references to a New Matilda project, conducted by Professor Wendy Bacon and academic Jenna Price, and by Dr Louise North as part of the Global Media Monitoring Project.

by Dr Bonita Mason
WIM Committee Member and Journalism Lecturer, Curtin University