Comment and insight on journalism issues from Press Gazette's guest writers

Why aren't more women journalists winning the top industry awards?

Earlier this month, on International Women’s Day, Press Gazette asked readers to name the most inspiring female journalists.

After a huge response, former Sunday Times journalist Marie Colvin (killed reporting from Syria last year) came top.

The night before, at the Press Awards, Colvin and three other women won their categories. Meanwhile, 17 men won awards.

This 4 to 17 ratio was the lowest since 2008, but reflects a trend of about 1 to 4 over the past five years.

Organiser and Society of Editors executive director Bob Satchwell said it was “swings and roundabouts” – some years women get a higher proportion of prizes (last year, 7:17) and some years they don’t (2008, 2:11).

He told Press Gazette: “We try to get together the most balanced judging panels that we can for all categories with a mixture of people nominated by their newspapers and from independent judges.

“We’ve not studied the number of entries from women because we’ve never actually seen it as an issue and I would be very surprised if the entries were judged on anything more than their merits.”

On the judging panel for general categories at the awards this year there were 15 women compared to more than 50 men.

Not all categories are dominated by men, though. The Interviewer of the Year – Lynn Barber of The Sunday Times – said she could not complain because her category is usually dominated by women.

But she did say it is “probably quite a bad thing” there weren’t more female winners in news categories.

“Whether there are lots of young women who would like to be getting ahead in news and aren’t doing so [I don’t know],” she said. “I would have thought that if a talented woman came in I don’t think they’d gang up to stop them – or possibly they would. I don’t feel a conscious prejudice.

“In my career the only place I have felt discriminated against was at The Independent on Sunday – not exactly discriminated but just [in] a conference entirely consisting of men. And they’d all sit around at conference saying, ‘what do women want’, and ‘we’ve got to get more women readers’. And you thought, well, one of the first things might be to get some women editors in conference.”

Fay Schlesinger of The Times was join winner of Scoop of the Year with Alexi Mostrous.

She was more concerned about the situation in news, saying that the number of female winners over the past few years is not proportionate to the make-up of The Times or Daily Mail (her previous newspaper) newsrooms.

Schlesinger suggested the lack of female winners may be more to do with a lack the confidence among some and fewer opportunities to work on bigger stories.

She revealed that her award-winning investigation into tax avoidance was originally Alexi Mostrous’s and she was told by the newsdesk to join him.

“I have done loads of human interest stories and I think before I was asked to do this investigation I didn’t think I could do it – it was way out of my comfort zone,” she said.

“I think now I feel much better equipped to do investigative work and I think hopefully going forward I’ll continue that. I guess it’s possibly just having someone forcing you to do it the first time and then becoming armed with the confidence to keep doing it.

“In my personal case I think I did lack the confidence to do that and it did involve men saying ‘off you go’.”

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