Women reporters are oversexualized and overlooked 

Women have to be taken seriously as anchors and journalists


Emma Uffelman

Women should not be sexualized or cater to the male gaze to be able to perform their jobs as hard-hitting reporters. Emma Uffelman

With so many women entering the workforce, it is easy to forget the constant inequality that many women face from their coworkers and clients. While I was scrolling through the newsreels on a Sunday morning, however, one headline served as a rude awakening to the realities that women experience. 

Rather than finding an article about NASA’s next steps or updates on climate change, what caught my eye instead was an image of a curvy woman in a tight pink dress, advertising an article for the “Top 15 Hottest News Anchors.” 

The more I thought about this, the more instances I could come up with where women reporters appeared oversexualized or underinformed in the news.

Women have to be taken seriously as anchors and journalists. They are not entertainment. They are not actors. They are reporters.

Twenty years ago, female reporters made up 36 percent of journalists and broadcasters. Now, the number has risen to 53 percent. Despite this growing equality in numbers, news agencies consistently treat women reporters less professionally, using them as entertainment for viewers and forcing them to cover less serious topics.

According to the American Meteorological Society, less than one-third of the weathercasters throughout the U.S. are women. Yet when I think of a weather reporter, my first thought is of a pretty woman standing in front of a green-screen pointing at fake rain on a map of the Bay Area.

This image may stem from the fact that news channels are known to present their weather girls in short, skin-tight dresses or skirts while on screen. 

This sexualization of female reporters extends far beyond delivering the week’s forecast. Anchors on well-known news channels such as CNN and Fox News present a significant number of their female staff in a sexual light. This may include hiring conventionally attractive women, dressing them in suggestive clothing, or filming them in ways that accentuate their features. 

What I find most upsetting is the double standard for men and women when casting news anchors. Men can be half bald and overweight, but female anchors are often hired based on how appealing their visuals are to an audience. While it is not uncommon to find older men reporting on television, The New York Times found that only three percent of women keep their reporting jobs after turning 40.

 The presentation of women on-screen seeps into aspects of their personal lives as well. While it is not uncommon for reporters to receive unwanted attention for the news they cover, women receive far greater levels of harassment. According to The United Nations Education, Scientific, and Cultural Organization, around 73 percent of women journalists have been harassed online. These attacks are often highly sexualized and focus on their physical appearance rather than the content they report. 

Even more disturbing than receiving online attacks, female news anchors also encounter stalkers and overly obsessive fans who attempt to find them in real life. 

An article by the Prism Reports Organization describes that in early 2021, Amanda Aguilar, a young reporter in Georgia, received an alarming call from her co-worker, who told her that there was a man claiming he had moved across state borders to meet her. The man followed Aguilar for weeks before the police confronted him. 

Fortunately, Aguilar had the support of her agency to respond to this threat. For the numerous other women that encounter similar risks, however, help is not always available. Many news agencies ignore the harassment that their female journalists face.

The most troubling part about this is that news agencies will overlook their female worker’s safety to continue presenting them as entertainment rather than what their purpose should be: reporting the news.

Female journalists are often so overlooked that even the harassment they receive is waved aside, thus alienating these women even further from their male coworkers.

When I compare two news anchors of opposite sexes reporting side by side, I can easily spot the differences in their presentation. While the man may be speaking passionately, the woman generally displays a bright smile and speaks light-heartedly about the topic.

Because women need to be entertaining to viewers, they are expected to look like they are simply happy to be on camera, whereas men can report topics with more emotion. This essentially turns these women into glamorized actors rather than reporters.

This expectation forces women to make sacrifices in the workplace. Either they dress to appeal to the male gaze and earn recognition, or they do not, and they are overlooked.Women also feel pressure to act a certain way to keep their colleagues comfortable with their presence. One example is that women regularly use a lighter tone in their emails. By adding plenty of exclamation points and beginning every email saying, “Just wanted to …” rather than a stronger, more demanding lead in. Women downplay their presence to avoid appearing demanding.        

Even with colleagues, women feel pressured to put on a performance and maintain an agreeable character to earn respect in the workplace. Instead of delivering a quick statement of their needs, women often apologize for bothering people and then sugarcoat their request to prevent their coworkers from labeling them as bossy. 

News agencies expect women to not only look and act for male pleasure but also to report topics that reinforce a less substantial presence of women in the media. These agencies typically assign women to “soft news” stories. Soft news refers to the journalist style that blurs the lines between news and entertainment and focuses more on social topics like art and culture. 

Women write about more serious topics than they did five years ago, however, the majority of stories written by women focus on media, lifestyle, and health news. 

Agencies cast women to attract an audience and then expect them to tell stories that will keep viewers comfortable. Serious topics such as foreign policy, domestic politics, and crime stories are all among the ten least reported topics by women.

Additionally, sports is the least likely topic for women to appear on, both as announcers and journalists. A 25-year study, conducted by professors from the University of Southern California and Purdue University, found that men reported over 90 percent of all sports coverage. 

With fewer women anchors on sports channels, male anchors frequently dismiss female athletes as well. The same study previously mentioned also found that local news stations spend a mere three percent of their airtime covering female sports. When commentators do cover female athletes, anchors are more likely to discuss the player’s emotions or appearance on the field, rather than the athlete’s skills. 

 As a young female journalist, I, along with many of my classmates, often wonder what a future in reporting would look like for us in 15years.

I don’t want to wake up every day to constant harassment and pick out tiny clothes from my closet because that’s what I am told to wear. I hope that we can start to take women seriously for their skills, without objectifying them. In the future, I hope that a girl my age now would look at me as a reporter and not see a superficial recording, but a woman whose reporting truly informs people about serious topics.