Gender Bias behind and In front of the TV Camera

Growing up in a very open-minded and supportive household I was never told that I couldn’t follow my dreams of being a camera operator due to my gender. I have always been gifted in photography and I have a natural talent to frame and portray emotions in still photos and video sequences. Being part of the Broadcasting and Digital Media program has opened my eyes to the inequalities in the Broadcasting industries. For an example, last year during fall I received an email from my advisor because a media company needed camera operators and people to run cables at the football games at the Kibbie Dome. I called the guy and he said he would get back to me. The next day I got a phone call, he said he was pursuing other candidates despite my eagerness to learn and do anything to get more hands on experience. Going to the game and seeing all men on the crew was disappointing because I was just as capable and as willing to learn the grunt work. According to Women’s Media Center “In evening broadcast news, men were on camera 68 percent of the time as anchors and correspondents. While women were on camera 32 percent of the time” (WMC shines light in Gender Bias in Major US Broadcast, Print, Online and Wire outlets).  Obviously, something needs to change when women are not treated with the same preference as men when it comes to their skills and technical abilities.  Another factor in this gendered industry is age and being physically attractive. “A study of cable news programs found that 62% of segments analyzed contained predominately female journalists with high sex appeal (Nitz, Reichert, Aune, & Velde, 2007, p. 14) .

One of the comments I heard on the phone while talking to the production guy was how physically fit and strong I was. I confidently said I was strong and, able to do whatever was asked of my broadcasting abilities.  I think that due to being a woman my technical and, camera operating skills were doubted due to transferring from Eastern Washington University without video production experience. I was doubted due to assumptions of my gender not having technical camera knowledge or having enough physical strength. There are preconceived ideas in society held by men in organizations that women don’t want to be running cables and, cameras around town.  Cameras are lighter now and, do not weigh as much as society likes to assume they do. These stereotypes and opinions about gender greatly limit the career opportunities for women in this industry. The number one issue being- men imply nonverbally that woman in broadcasting don’t have enough strength and knowledge for the cameras. Women are not too fragile to do the media work we know how to do, and are trained to do.  In my opinion, another reason women struggle in broadcasting is that we don’t memorize the technology vocabulary. As media professional females we just know how cameras work and, don’t ask for HDMI cables we know what they are despite not using the terminology. Men may take this the wrong way believing we are not experienced enough because; we are not as technical in our language. However, if using the technical jargon was required by an employer implementing it would be within our capabilities.

Another way assignments are gender segregated are because of how men and females perceive technology there are inequalities in the Broadcast system. “Women are assigned to soft news stories, like health and entertainment news, whereas their male counterparts are given stories of political and international importance. (Carter, 1998, p.14). This type of profile is done similarly on the camera operating side of news- men are sent to war zones and, women are sent to less important assignments due biological gender safety concerns. This circumstance goes deeper because men are typically viewed to be more credible and less emotional in their assignments. This may be the reason why women never obtain that many hard-hitting journalism pieces because; in this industry a person assumes women cannot handle assignments like that.

I myself have encountered this gender bias my first year at the University of Idaho and through another experience I had volunteering for a Christian group in Pullman. I decided to volunteer at the Christian group for their video team because, I am a broadcasting major and I felt very interested in it due to my background in photography. It was a challenge to follow the men on the Christian video team due to these gendered reasons. One of the most offensive comments I have ever heard while working with the Christian video team was do you know how to insert a battery?  It was obvious that I was taking on a gendered biased crew, as they inferred I had a complete lack of capability. This question may have been assumed due to being female in a male dominated environment that already had broken communication patterns and role confusion. This role confusion at the Christian group was not helpful because it caused miscommunications and I was not treated equally due to my gender. Without providing direction these men in this Christian group assumed I did not have previous experience when I did, and I was treated unfairly. The male Christian leader in the video team spoke more distinctly when I asked for clarification about my responsibilities. This really bothered me because, they did not go as in depth in details of what they wanted or expected. It was harder to adjust to my role when I did not have shot size lists or clear distinct explanations of who to zoom up on or solely focus on during worship service. . I tried to focus in medium close up and extreme close up shots of the worship band singing and portraying emotion. The Broadcast leader said I did not have to be as zoomed in however, I thought it looked better to be zoomed in closer occasionally.  I think this same situation occurred when I tried to get into the Broadcasting gig at the University of Idaho. I asked a lot of questions to the production crew that ran cables at the football games and the coordinator disregarded my questions and assumed I was inexperienced. The University of Idaho broadcast company coordinator did not give a lot of in-in-depth details of what they do, and, what he looks for in a Broadcast worker. I believe I was indirectly put aside and not chosen to shoot sports because the leader of the Broadcasting Company decided to pick men first. At least 90 percent of his crew was male and I believe I was subject to the barriers set in place by the evident gender bias.

“Male correspondents at ABC, CBS, NBC, and PBS provided 66 percent of news reports from the field (WMC Divided 2015: The Media Gender Gap). This citation I have just shared from the Women’s Media Center website proves there is a gender bias in sports broadcasting reporting, news broadcasting and, behind the camera. 66 percent is a very high number and, this shows women are underrepresented and pushed aside for jobs they should be allowed to do. Something needs to change so more women can have way more news opportunities for sports broadcasting, hard news assignments and, any stories of political or international importance. This is important to myself and, other women because we all deserve a chance in the Broadcasting industry. All women need to shine and showcase our news making and digital media making skills. It is no longer the 1960s or 1970s it is time to evolve push aside assumptions and, move forward into allowing women to feel more welcome in the Broadcasting workplace.

Herbert George Ponting and cinematograph, Antarctica, January 1912
Herbert George Ponting and cinematograph, Antarctica, January 1912

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