Women in Australian media: it's a 'mates over merit' culture

8 March 2016

“Outdated attitudes and ineffective policies are holding women back from making their fullest and most creative contribution to the media landscape” says Women in Media (WiM) - a nationwide networking and mentoring initiative which supports and nurtures women working in all facets of the Australian media.

Survey results published to coincide with International Women's Day, taken from a a sample of 1054 Australian journalists, show a bleak landscape where the industry is seen as a “blokey culture” that rewards ‘mates over merit’, tolerates sexual harassment and abuse, pays lip service to work-family balance, and perpetuates the gender pay gap.

Almost half (48%) said they had experienced intimidation, abuse or sexual harassment in the workplace.

A quarter of the women who have taken maternity leave said they have been discriminated against upon return to work. Some even saying they have been put on the “mummy track”.

Meanwhile, there is strong evidence of an entrenched gender pay gap (reinforced by research from the Workplace Gender Equality Agency) showing a 23.3% gap in the sector.

“Progress towards equality for women in media is disappointingly slow,” Tracey Spicer, national convenor of Women in Media, says. “While there are more women than ever before working in the industry, they still dominate the lower paid, less powerful positions.”

Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance Media section director Katelin McInerney says the union would use these findings to work with media employers to “fully harness the incredible potential of their female workforce”.

Strategies include audits and action on the gender pay gap; improved procedures to deal with social media harassment; and anti-discrimination policies to be put into practice.

“Outdated attitudes and ineffective policies are holding women back from making their fullest and most creative contribution to the media landscape, at a time when innovation, diversity and new ways of thinking are desperately needed to help our industry transition and meet the challenges of a new digital era,” McInerney says.

“While we have secured some improvements, media companies have been slow to adopt pay transparency, superannuation during parental leave, and dedicated family violence leave.”

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