Women are leaving newspaper jobs at a higher percent than other media, according to the recently published “The American Journalist in the 21st Century: U.S. News People at the Dawn of a New Millennium.”
A doctoral student at the University of Texas posed that question and others in a national online survey of current and former newspaperwomen.
The Society of Professional Journalists and the National Federation of Press Women supported the survey by notifying their members via e-mail newsletters. In order to participate, women had to have worked in the editorial department of a newspaper in the past five years and could work at another newspaper now or in another field.
Women left their last newspaper position primarily because of frustrations with management, which including feeling their workload was too heavy, believing they had little opportunity to advance, and wanting more personal time. The need for a higher salary was also a strong influence.
Newspapers that want to retain their female employees must use a comprehensive approach to improve workers’ job satisfaction. It is not enough to focus on a single area, such as offering a bit more money or a couple of comp hours. Women at newspapers also need more strong female mentors, greater opportunity for professional development and a better balance of work and personal time.
Why did they leave their last job?
“I was having consistent conflicts with my supervisor, (and) wanted more autonomy and creative challenges. I also felt that the assignments given were too numerous to do a good job on any one of them. Little guidance or change for learning was available. No chance for real career advancement.”
— 36-year-old former photographer whose last position was 3½ years at a daily newspaper; now works as a freelance photographer.
“It was a miserable place to work, with little benefits and editors who clearly forgot what it was like writing for a newspaper that offered little resources … the editors were condescending and demeaning of reporters’ work. They had no skills at mentoring and guiding their reporters.”
— 37-year-old former reporter whose last position was four years at a daily newspaper; now works as a staff writer at a trade publication for attorneys.
“My responsibilities increased dramatically when people were laid off or quit. But my pay did not change, nor did my job title. Supervisors without any experience or expertise were put above me, so I couldn’t learn from anyone in the end.”
— 25-year-old former reporter whose last position was a year and a half at a daily newspaper; now works as a communications specialist at a nonprofit and freelances for magazines.
By the numbers
167 completed surveys.
59 percent were reporters at their last newspaper job.
80 percent were reporters, copy editors, designers, photographers and others.
Of that group, 29 percent said they were very satisfied or satisfied at their last newspaper job.
84 percent reported being more satisfied at their new job compared to their old job.
19 percent were editors and other managers at their last newspaper job.
28 percent of that group was very satisfied/satisfied at their last newspaper job.
82 percent were more satisfied at their new job compared to their old job.
Management issues and heavy workload topped the reasons newspaperwomen left their old job.
Female editors were even more likely to be unhappy with management.
Reporters and other subordinates also said they were unhappy about the amount of time they could spend with their families and felt they had few opportunities to advance.
80 percent said the lack of advancement possibilities and the need for a higher salary influenced their decision to leave their last newspaper job.
62 percent said they were influenced by the desire for a job that was more challenging.
More than half were influenced to leave their last newspaper job because of conflicts with managers and co-workers (55 percent) and because of the desire for more personal time (53 percent).
Many participants, when asked what would make them consider returning to their old job, responded: Nothing.
Others said a change in management, a higher salary and better (fewer or more flexible) hours.
65 percent of the women made less than $35,000 annually at their last newspaper job.
Now, 59 percent make $35,000 to $54,999.
78 percent worked more than 40 hours per week at their last newspaper job.
Now, less than half (47 percent) work more than 40 hours per week.
Almost 75 percent did not supervise other employees at their last newspaper job.
About 20 percent now work at another newspaper.
44 percent still work in journalism (television, radio, magazine, etc.).
16 percent work in public relations and related fields.
Amber Willard is a doctoral student at the University of Texas.