Vuelio data shows that women occupy 35% of editor positions at Britain’s largest newspapers. The FT Weekend Magazine’s Sue Matthias says female journalists need more role models.
Furthermore, these figures count editors on all levels and sections. If you look only at senior editor positions, the picture looks even less encouraging: among the editors of Britain’s national dailies, the only female representatives are currently Dawn Neesom, editor of the Daily Star, and the Daily Mirror’s weekend editor, Allison Philips.
‘It’s objectively true that there are fewer women at the highest level of the industry now than a decade ago,’ said Sue Matthias, editor of the FT Weekend Magazine. She is not surprised to hear Vuelio’s numbers.
‘It reflects the condition of the industry,’ she said. ‘Print is in decline and under severe commercial pressure, and I think this makes owners and boards very risk averse – maybe more so than they were in the 1990s and noughties. Women are still often seen as a less safe choice at editor level.’
Matthias has had a long career working in senior roles across national newspapers and magazines, landing her first senior editor position as assistant editor of the Independent on Sunday in the mid-nineties. She says she has been fortunate in having had only good experiences with being a woman in a male-dominated industry.
‘I have been exceptionally lucky to have great relationships with the editors I have worked for,’ she explained. ‘At the time when I first reached senior level, there were relatively few senior women in most newspapers.’
It was good relationships that enabled her to negotiate flexible working when she became a parent during a high point in her career. ‘Because I had a very sympathetic editor when I had my son, I was able to cut my hours and work part time. He was willing to talk to senior management on my behalf, which was groundbreaking at the time,’ she said.
Lack of role models
Although Matthias says the situation has improved since those days, she believes one of the main obstacles still stopping young female journalists from obtaining senior positions, is a continuing lack of role models and good mentoring.
‘Young women coming into journalism need to be able to see other women succeeding at all levels and across all areas of the industry, from news to business to sports and everything in between. If girls don’t see senior women succeeding, they’re going to think that those roles are not for them.’
Matthias’s own newspaper, the FT, has the third highest number of female editors according to Vuelio’s research. Importantly, as she points out, it also has near gender parity on the board.
‘Especially on newspaper boards, women’s presence tends to be noticeably smaller than men’s,’ Matthias said. ‘The FT is showing a positive approach in that we have near 40% representation.
Part of her focus as editor of the FT Weekend Magazine is to put strong women in the spotlight for aspiring female journalists to see.
‘We try hard to give more coverage to women who can inspire other women, especially in our annual Women Of The Year issue, and to mentoring other women as well,’ she said. ‘Editorially, I think this is something we all need to bear in mind and reflect back to our readers.’
The Gender Split is a post by freelance journalist Hanne Christiansen. The FT Weekend Magazine can be found on Twitter @FTMag. Information on all the publications, Sue Matthias as well as thousands of other media contacts and outlets can be found in the Vuelio Media Database.