We need to have a talk

This week we started to talk about gender biased in writing in the English language; we tend to use the pronoun he when we should use they or their. We started the conversation in my Copy Editing class off with a Ted talk by Laura Bates about everyday sexism. The statistics in her talk came from the U.K. and they were really surprising. She looked into women in government, arts, and sciences, and found that the number of men were staggeringly higher than women in all of these fields. I decided to look into the numbers in the U.S. I found that “women hold 17 of the 100 Senate seats” and that “women hold 73 or 16.8% of the 435 seats in the House of Representatives”. I also found that “the U.S. is ranked at 69th in the world in terms of women’s representation in national legislatures or parliaments (tied with Turkmenistan) out of 188 direct election countries (as of October 31, 2011), down from 57th in November 2004. Canada is tied with Australia for 38.”1 One other interesting tid bit I found was that Rwanda was ranked first in women in government.

I also looked into women in film and television and found that “In 2014-15, women comprised 26% of all directors, writers, executive producers, producers, editors, and cinematographers working on documentaries and narrative features screening at more than 20 high-profile film festivals in the United States.” Also “In 2014, females comprised 12% of protagonists, 29% of major characters, and 30% of all speaking characters in the top 100 grossing films.”2 These stats match a lot of Laura Bates in the fact that women are widely under-represented.

To tie this back to copy editing, I looked into the newspaper industry. This is what I found: “Nearly two-thirds (63%) of U.S. newspapers had at least one woman in their top three editing positions in 2013, according to the new annual census from the American Society of News Editors (ASNE), using 2013 data. Nearly half the papers responding (49%) said that one of those top editors was a woman, 12% employed two women in those top slots and 2% reported that all three top editors were women.”3 That’s awesome! This industry is really doing well with getting women in positions of authority. Then I remembered Laura Bates’s ted talk. While it was great that women were really doing well in journalism and the writing field I wondered if or how they struggled to get there. These numbers weren’t always like this. I found an article by Tracy Everbach, who said that after she advised an intern to shadow an older journalist. The intern later told Everbach the man made a pass at her. Everbach then did a little research and reports that “No significant surveys of women journalists on this topic have been completed since the 1990s. But at that time, studies found that between 60 percent and 80 percent of women journalists had experienced some kind of sexual harassment in newsrooms, either from co-workers or sources.”4 Let me just repeat that, 80% of women journalists experienced some kind of sexual harassment in the newsroom. That is appalling. While it is clear that women have and continue to make huge strides in many fields and especially in writing it is also clear that the road is rocky and filled with cat calls.

(1) http://www.catalyst.org/knowledge/women-government

(2) http://womenintvfilm.sdsu.edu/research.html

(3) http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2014/07/30/asne-two-thirds-of-u-s-newspapers-employ-women-in-top-editing-jobs/

(4) http://mediadiversityforum-resources.net/2015/09/27/sexual-harassment-in-newsrooms/

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