21.8% gender pay gap in radio, TV and film reflects danger of ‘predominately male, middle-aged, white workforce’, says new study

A 21.8% gender pay gap in Australian broadcasting, and 80% of radio presenters being men, impacts the diversity of newsrooms and the proliferation of harmful stereotypes, a new University of South Australia study has found.

The analysis of the country’s radio, TV and film industries uncovered “entrenched gender and diversity imbalance” at the most senior levels, and warned of the dangers of a “predominately male, middle-aged, white workforce projecting their views on Australia”.

The gender imbalance in creative industries reinforces power imbalances and social and economic inequality, the study proposes

Although breakfast radio reaches 86% of Australians over 14, women over 45 are absent from radio roles, the study said. Women outnumber men in radio journalism roles, but a vast majority of on-air presenters are male, and a very low proportion of women are employed in content production positions.

The report found that just 1.2% of women journalists earn more than $144,000 a year, compared to 9.8% of men.

And these patterns are replicated globally. In 2017, only one third of the BBC’s top-earning talent were women. Its seven highest-paid talent were all men.

Professor Susan Luckman, the lead author of the study and a professor in cultural and creative industries at the University of South Australia, said creative industries have “a notorious reputation for employing people on the basis of who they know”, leading to a lack of diversity.

“On the surface, there may seem to be diversity, especially in terms of gender, but when it comes to seniority and job security this is certainly not the case,” she said.

“Men still overwhelming dominate the senior roles in film, television and radio. This has clear implications for a diversity of stories and voices.”

The most recent statistics, from 2016, reveal that men dominated every senior role across radio, TV and film – producer, director of photography, actor, radio and TV presenter, stage directors, technical directors, and editors. The only roles in which women outnumbered their male counterparts were in artistic direction.

“Homophily – managers preferring and hiring employees just like them – only serves to replicate and reinforce the existing lack of diversity,” Professor Luckman said, adding that this means stereotypes about women, older people, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders and people with disabilities persist because they are rarely challenged.

Some key stakeholders such as the ABC, SBS and Screen Australia have actively addressed broadcasting’s lack of diversity, Professor Luckman noted.

“For profound change to occur, it will require a more diverse workforce at the top levels and a real commitment to challenging the culture,” she said.

“There are no quick fixes here.”


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