I’ve just got my alumni magazine and have been looking at the different career trajectories of men and women.
I got an alumni magazine through the post the other day. I have been trying to avoid alumni magazines. I have been to a fair few colleges/universities in my time and the bottom line of alumni magazines is getting money out of you. Maybe when the kids have left home I will have that money, but until then I avoid the magazines. However, this one was from a journalism course I did and it has a list of what people have done since at the back.
It’s always interesting to trace people’s careers, even if most of them have done substantially better than yourself so you kind of end up feeling a bit of a failure. I got to looking at my year. I looked at the men. In most cases, they showed a steady upward ascent through the ranks. I looked at the women. In all but a very few cases, they ended with "freelance". Of course, they may have sparkling freelance careers, but freelance in journalism is a bit like resting in acting. It covers a multitude of sins. Freelance work doesn’t tend to be steady, at least not in the current times, and it doesn’t tend to be well paid. Some women had changed career entirely. What had happened? Babies, in most cases, I suspect.
Now journalism is a very competitive, 24-hour profession [unless, of course, you work on Cat Weekly where the news is not quite so urgent]. Plus it’s in a bit of a meltdown at the moment, which is more than just the result of the economic crisis. It doesn’t quite know where it’s going. Perhaps it is unrealistic to think that, in such circumstances, employers would make allowances for people who might not want to work all day and night. But then how do those men, most of them, no doubt, dads, get on? On the backs of women who give up their careers perhaps? Why should it be all one way? Is it really necessary to have one person working all hours on what is becoming more and more a desk-bound job, to the point of wipeout? Is that really the best option?
Is it better to have eager beaver young newshounds out there writing the stories instead of experienced female journalists who already know the ropes and, more importantly, know the context behind the stories better? Might that not be important too?
Would this happen if men pushed a bit harder to work more flexibly? In many workplaces men are doing just that. In journalism, for so many reasons, things seem to progress more slowly, despite the fact that the ground under journalists’ feet is shifting pretty fast.
I wonder what today’s young journalists will do in the future? On the one hand, young people seem to want more flexibilty all round, but there are fewer and fewer jobs around. Plus gender stereotyping seems to be getting stronger from a cursory glance at any manner of clothes and toy shops and from the kind of comments I have been getting about how I am really going to notice the difference now I am having a boy.
The fact that journalism is changing so fast might, though, prove an opportunity for more equality. Technology now allows anyone with a good idea to push that forwards. I see a fair few women journalists around me who are very bright, very sharp, very good at their jobs, but have had to take a back seat because, mainly, their partner earns more than them and someone needs to be around for the children, or because they want to be around for their children. Many are incredibly frustrated. Local employers are doing very well out of using their talents, but paying them less than they are worth. Whereas before they might have given up and dropped out of view, many now need to work so perhaps that will build a critical mass which will force through change. However, that critical mass needs also to come from their partners and their colleagues.
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