British journalism is 94% white and 55% male, survey reveals

More women than men are entering the profession but female journalists remain underpaid and under-promoted, new research finds

The British journalism industry is 94% white, 86% university-educated and 55% male, according to a damning survey of 700 news professionals conducted by City University London.

The findings, announced at the Changing Media Summit today, reveal that 65% of journalists who have joined the profession over the last three years are female, but that women remain underpaid and under-promoted, while almost all ethnic groups and religions are significantly under-represented.

Researchers reported that just 0.4% of British journalists are Muslim and only 0.2% are black. Nearly 5% of the UK population is Muslim and 3% is black.

The issue of equality and diversity in journalism came under the spotlight last month when 94 men and 20 women were shortlisted for this week’s British Press Awards.

City’s research indicates that women are paid significantly less than their male counterparts. Nearly 50% of female journalists earn £2,400 or less a month compared with just a third of men.

Female journalists also tend to become stuck in junior management positions, while more men fill senior posts, the research found. Nearly half of women who have worked in the industry for between six and 10 years are still “rank and file journalists”, while 64% of men with equivalent time in the industry had been promoted into junior or senior management positions.

One female survey participant working for a major news publication told the Guardian: “There are a few of us who’ve been working at the company for quite a while and haven’t had any kind of pay rise, whereas men in similar positions have climbed up the ladder.”

The survey indicates that there has been little change in terms of the ethnicity of UK journalists since an NCTJ survey in 2012; 94% of journalists are white, compared to 87% of the UK working population and 70% of the working population in London, where 36% of journalists work. The survey also revealed that all major religions other than Judaism and Buddhism are underrepresented.

A Muslim survey participant told the Guardian he had found it more difficult to get new jobs in recent years: “Consistently I’ve not really got anywhere, to such an extent that once I applied for the same job using an English-sounding name and I did get an interview.”

Michelle Stanistreet, the general secretary of the National Union of Journalists, said the survey indicated that the industry’s efforts to tackle its poor record on diversity were failing: “The findings are despite decades of legislation and various government and employer initiatives that have attempted to address inequality in media workplaces.”

Stanistreet called on all media organisations to conduct a comprehensive equality audit of their organisations and address “clear and existing disparities”.

Her intervention follows a call from the Society of Editors, organisers of the British Press Awards, for an audit to determine how many women work in national newspapers, and in which departments. Broadcasters are already mandated to publish diversity data, but a House of Lords report last year stated that current requirements were insufficient.

The survey results lend weight to the theory that the middle class is extending its grip over the profession. More than 98% of journalists who began working in the industry over the last three years are graduates and 36% hold a master’s degree.

The report’s author, Neil Thurman, professor of journalism at LMU University of Munich, said: “Given the increasing costs of university education in the UK, especially when that education includes a master’s degree, and the competitiveness of university entrance, the findings raise questions about the socio-economic diversity of the next generation of UK journalists.”

In February, the Sutton Trust revealed that 51% of leading print journalists had been to private school, and 54% to Oxford or Cambridge.

City University London randomly selected a pool of 8,000 journalists working across broadcast, print and digital in local, regional and national news organisations in the UK. The survey, which has been disseminated by a number of universities around the world, did not ask respondents about their sexuality, nor whether they identify as disabled. The full UK study will be published in May 2016 by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism.

A spokesperson for Guardian News and Media said: “As a global news organisation we want to reflect the world we report on and the audiences we serve. We are committed to promoting equality, diversity and inclusion across all aspects and levels of our business, and run a number of programmes to encourage and support increased diversity.”



Oscar Williams

The GuardianTramp

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