Women’s presence dominates that of males in the MFJS department

The Media Film and Journalism Studies Department at the University of Denver makes up a significant portion of the DU community. It has about 250 students in four different majors, Media Studies, Journalism Studies, Film Studies and Production and Strategic Communications.

For many students in these majors, it is a great mystery as to why the vast majority of their classes are dominated by women, especially as they progress to the upper-level classes in these majors.

The Situation at DU

Margie Thompson's Gender, Culture and Global Communications class, where every student is female

Margie Thompson’s Gender, Culture and Global Communications class, where every student is female

In a Newswriting and Reporting class taught by Jim Brosemer winter quarter, out of the twenty people in the class only two were male. The same drastically skewed ratio is present in its next-level class, Online and Visual Journalism, taught this quarter by Cristof Demont-Heinrich, with only two males in a class of about fifteen people. In a class taught by Margie Thompson this quarter, Gender, Culture, and Global Communication, there are no males enrolled.

“I don’t think I’ve ever had a class in the department that’s been half and half or even 2/3. It’s always the very vast majority female,” says Dina Grossman, a junior majoring in strategic communications.

There was one boy in my last strategic communication class out of 15 people…that was Strategic Planning,” says Kellsie Brannen, sophomore strategic communications major. “In my class before that there were maybe 3 or 4 guys, but still ¾ of class were girls… and that was Strategic Messaging.”

In the Clarion

Despite the imbalance in the MFJS departments, there is more of a balance in the DU student-run newspaper, the Clarion. At a typical Clarion meeting, there is a rough balance between males and females.

I think there are slightly more girls in Clarion; however its pretty even, especially in our higher up positions,” says Davis.

“I feel like it’s pretty even in the Clarion,” said Brannen.

A surprising misrepresentation in journalism

A Fox 31 News truck parked on the DU campus

A Fox 31 News truck parked on the DU campus

With these drastically skewed representations of males vs. females in media classes at DU, some women in the program might wonder what this means for their career plans in journalism. Will they be entering a career field represented entirely by women? Will they be just another female face on the morning news or on a newspaper staff, or will they be less hirable based on the overrepresentation of females already in media?

The facts and statistics of women’s representation in journalistic outlets actually presents a different outlook. According to an article in US News and to the Women’s Media Center’s The Status of Women in Media in 2014:

  • Women comprise 36 percent of newspaper staffs, a number that has more or less stagnated for 15 years, according to an American Society of News Editors census cited in the Women’s Media Center report.
  • In some places diversity is actually decreasing.
  • Female managers in radio dropped over 5% in 2012.
  • In America’s three most well-known newspapers and four more prestigious newspaper syndicates, male opinion page writers outnumbered women 4-to-1.
  • Out of all the Sunday morning talk show hosts, only one was not a white male. Finally, in the sports arena, 90% of editors are white and 90% are male.

Women have a better chance in PR

While the women studying to become journalists at DU may be discouraged at their overwhelmingly male competition in the job market, women studying strategic communications have different concerns relating to the lack of males in their job field. According to Bureau of Labor Statistics data, women make up 63% of public relations specialists and 59% of PR managers.

In the world of advertising, 60% of employees are female, according to a study done for The Atlantic by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research. Other estimates say that this percentage could be even closer to 85%.

Many people think that reasoning behind a majority of PR representatives being women is that they are more social and talkative than men. However, this evidence is intimately linked with society’s expectation that women behave this way.

“There is some evidence that women tend to be more collaborative, participative, and pro-social than men are—but that’s impossible to untangle from our societal expectation that they be that way. Women have only been found to talk more than men when they’re in collaborative settings,” says Olga Khazan in her article, “Why are there so many women in public relations?” published in The Atlantic.

It is a common societal norm that men are more stoic and logical than women.

“People will consider female leaders effective when they demonstrate both sensitivity and strength, but the male leaders need only to demonstrate strength,” according to Khazan’s article.

“Guys feel this societal pressure to study business or something that will make them money so they can support a wife and kids,” says Connor Davis, a junior majoring in journalism. “Guys are bottled up and go study business cause their dad wants them to.”

“I feel like people think– obviously in a stereotypical kind of way– people think of social media and marketing as a feminine type of field to go into. It’s kind of like the soft part of business,” says Brannen.

Others say that women are less driven by the pursuit of high-paying jobs than men. Men value the money- making potential of their majors and ideal careers more than women. For example, there is the lowest ratio of women to men in engineering out of all majors, according to a study done by Phillip Cohen in Khazan’s article.


Ramifications for DU students

In addition to effects like uneven competition in the job market, DU students in the MFJS departments have different experiences in their majors based on the imbalance of women and men in their classes.

“It’s kind of more comfortable being in a class with all girls because we all have similar views and its easy to share your opinion because you know you’re not alone; sometimes I think it would be nice to have a guys perspective though, especially in StratComm when we talk about advertisement and how different people perceive different messages. It would be good to see how guys perceive different messages,” says Grossman.

Whether male or female and going into a field like PR that is dominated by women or one like journalism that is dominated by men, DU students are decidedly passionate about pursuing their dreams, no matter what those are.

Davis, the current Editor-In-Chief at the DU Clarion, says about being in classes with mostly females, “Sometimes it makes me feel like effeminate in a way a very brief moment…But I’m still pursuing something I love. Girls are more open about that.”














One Response to Women’s presence dominates that of males in the MFJS department

  • Danielle Ivanovich says:

    Courtney, very interesting article, definitely not something I had thought about before now. While the content was high quality, some of the paragraphs were a bit long. Great use of tags within the story, though!

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