A couple of weeks ago I returned to uni. To be precise, to ‘my’ uni, the faculty of Ciencias de la Información at the Complutense in Madrid. A group of students were preparing a radio chat about women in journalism and when they contacted me to participate and informed me of the topic, I did not hesitate to take part.
That afternoon, I joined Ana Persona, Director of Communications in Spain and Latin America at Santander Asset Management and Marta Fernández, presenter of Noticias Cuatro. It ended up that, differences aside, our experiences as female journalists had been similar.
Starting from the beginning, none of us had come across obstacles because of our sex when it came to accessing the profession. In fact, in the newsrooms, the majority of the labour force was women, as Marta pointed out during this conversation. We women have gained a lot of ground and if it was previously considered ‘odd’ to come across, for example, female sports journalists, day by day, we are finding women pursuing this profession in all sectors.
We also spoke about the treatment, both of our fellow colleagues and our superiors. By the way, on the whole, it can be said that we have been ‘lucky girls:’ none of us has endured harassment or any pressures because of the fact that we are women in the work world. However, here is where I differ from them a little: I have heard on one or two occasions, offhand comments or jokes.
Ever since I passed over to the world of communication, fellow journalists, who are also on this side of things, have told me about cases with clients, who did not want to talk about certain topics with women. Or, for example, how entering an agency competition with a predominantly female team can hurt said team’s chances of winning.
Moreover, on the topic of being treated differently because we are women, I mentioned that once in a job interview, I was asked about my future maternity plans. The other guests seemed surprised and indignant at this little personal confession, but I am pretty sure that my case was by no means isolated. In my world of work, many colleagues have been asked the same question, whether directly or indirectly. In fact, one time a very well-known head hunter confessed in several conferences that I attended, that this type of question is essential to companies that find themselves with female candidates, who are of a fertile age, in the selection process for candidates.
There was a consensus when it came to the two uncomfortable realities we women face. The first one is that we are the absolute minority at the top of the media world. This issue is in reality a reflection of a Spanish company. A startling figure: only 20% of the directors of large companies listed on the Ibex 35 are women. Yes, the figure spiked in 2015 but the figure is below the European average and the 30%, which the National Commission of the Stock Market recommends. What that means is that in middle management, there are more opportunities but in terms of positions of responsibility, there is still a long way to go until we achieve equality.
The second issue was about salaries. It’s not difficult to observe that, on the whole, many women charge less than their male colleagues. Wellcomm has published several reports on wages in Communications, which addressed the issue. In the most recent, carried out in 2014 and included 454 professionals from the world of journalism, one of the main conclusions was that on average men charge 6,700€ more than women and that the greatest difference in average wage for women and men was that of professionals with more than 8 years of experience. Subsequent follow-ups have shown us that there has been little change in this regard.
With this overview then, what should female journalists do when they find themselves face to face with inequality? The responses were fairly universal: to continue doing their work the best they know how to and, most importantly, to not enter the game of annoying or sexist jokes aimed at other female colleagues. We should not make the war dirty amongst us females. If one day we hope that society will stop talking about men and women and speak simply of individuals or workers, we have to take the first step.