It’s not as simple as just increased childcare responsibilities—Korea already has a record-low birthrate, and women journalists the world over have less children than women in most other professions. So what gives?
Estimated reading time: 5 minutes. Photo (cropped) by Dynamic Wang on Unsplash.
It is a truth universally acknowledged, I like to think, that a single industry so possessed by one sex, must be in want of dramatic reform.
Okay, I did force that Austen-like opener somewhat.
But when you realize that the entry number of Korean women journalists has started to exceed that of men in recent years, only for most women to leave the industry in less than 10 years? Also, that the ensuing absence of women mentors, and continued domination of newsrooms by masculine culture are, ipso facto, some of the main causes of that?
Perhaps awkward forced changes, such as quotas for board members of news organizations, are precisely what the industry needs.
I can’t pretend to possess insider knowledge in that regard, nor detailed solutions. But from now on, I can at least share everything I’ve collected about sexism and bias in the Korean media industry over the years to spread awareness, as well as anything new as it comes up. In particular, such a gold mine of information as Na Yeon Lee and Changsook Kim’s “Why Are Women Journalists Leaving the Newsroom in South Korea? Gendered and Emerging Factors that Influence the Intention to Leave” just published last month in Journalism Practice.
If your interest isn’t piqued just by the title alone, let me leave you with some telling quotes that demonstrate why it really should be,* and please get in touch if you don’t have access to a copy.
*Apologies for removing the numerous sources mentioned for the sake of readability. Please consult the original for those, many of which sound just as interesting and informative as this one!
Just four years, ago MBC anchorwoman Lim Hyeon-ju caused a sensation by defying the rule that female news anchors weren’t allowed to wear glasses on the job.
First, on why I think quotas are absolutely necessary:
…in South Korea in 1996, JoongAng Daily, one of the largest South Korean newspapers, employed only 24 women journalists out of a total of 402 journalists. Soon after, the percentage of women journalists began to surge so that by 2020 women accounted for about 32.8% of the total number of journalists. However, most women journalists were younger and about 10% of women journalists were in top-management positions.
In South Korea in recent years, although the entry number of women journalists has exceeded that of men journalists , there were only 7 women out of 138 (5.07%) board members among the 29 major news organizations.
Next, on why a gender balance in news media is so important:
The under-representation of women journalists in newsrooms is regarded as problematic based on ﬁndings of previous studies that the gender of journalists inﬂuences their reporting practices as well as the content of news coverage. For example, a recent study found that news organizations where women journalists occupy positions at editorial levels were more likely to have covered the “#Me Too Movement” than organizations without women editors in high positions. In fact, previous studies have repeatedly reported that with fewer women journalists, portrayals of women as well as marginalization of women’s concerns are themes often overlooked in news stories. Therefore, if women journalists consistently exit the news industry, their voices in covering newsworthy topics will likely disappear along with recommendations for improved newsroom policies and culture.
Moreover, in the absence of upper-level women journalists…
…several studies have shown that while the number of women journalists has increased, characteristics of newsrooms as masculine domains remain entrenched. In fact…“Young women journalists decided to resign because of men-centered culture and they felt they had less attention than men journalists from their organizations.” [Also], although there has been an increase in the number of Korean women journalists in recent decades, the traditional model of newsrooms based on a male model that expects strong work commitment and unusually long hours has not substantially changed. In addition, in South Korea, women journalists often face work-family conﬂicts after marriage due to society’s concepts of the traditional gender role of women, inﬂuenced by Korean cultural standards.
Photo by Anh Tuan To on Unsplash.
And finally, in conclusion:
…the results of this study show that the three most important factors in women journalists’ leaving the newsroom are (1) the weakening of social status, (2) a newsroom dominated by masculine culture, and (3) additional online workloads.
…although more and more women journalists have entered the news industry, the masculine newsroom culture has not changed because most of high-level positions in news media organizations are still held by men journalists. Interestingly, in-depth interviews, conducted…with nine young women journalists who resigned with less than 10 years of experience, revealed they had voluntarily left because they were unable to “find a role model who overcame the male-centered culture of a journalist society and the organizational culture of newspaper companies.” Their responses indicate that women journalists in South Korea continue to be perceived as “often excluded from the internal networks established by men.” Also, they are less likely than men to have the beneﬁt of mentors.
- Being Able to Wear Glasses Was a Crucial Step for Korea’s Anchorwomen. Now, Let’s Give Them a Chance to SPEAK as Much as Anchormen Too.
- Korean Media Misogyny: Not worth monitoring?
- Why Does Korea Have so Many of Those Damn Smutty Ads?
- Headless Images Dehumanize Obese People. It’s Now a Fact.
- Single Korean Women Already Have to Pay Extra to Stay Safe in Their Homes. They Don’t Need to be Infantilized in the Process.
- Two Ads With the Same Female Model, for the Same Kind of Product. Spot the Differences in the One Aimed at Men.
If you reside in South Korea, you can donate via wire transfer: Turnbull James Edward (Kookmin Bank/국민은행, 563401-01-214324)