Television News Anchors' Career Barriers--
Gender Differences in the Perceptions of
Television News Anchors' Career Barriers
Erika Engstrom, Ph.D.
Anthony J. Ferri, Ph.D.
Hank Greenspun School of Communication
University of Nevada, Las Vegas
4505 Maryland Parkway
Las Vegas, NV 89154-5007
Please direct correspondence to:
e-mail: [log in to unmask]
Submitted to the AEJMC Commission on the Status of Women
for presentation at the 1998 Annual Convention
Television News Anchors' Career Barriers--
Gender Differences in the Perceptions of
Television New Anchors' Career Barriers
A nationwide mail survey of 246 local TV news anchors was conducted to
examine anchors' perceptions of hindrances to their career progress. Women
anchors' highest-rated barrier was the overemphasis on their physical
appearance; lack of professional networks and support groups ranked the highest
for men. Career barriers ranked highly by anchors of both sexes included:
balance between work and family life, conflicting roles of wife/mother or
husband/father and professional newscaster, and relocation.
Television News Anchors' Career Barriers--
Gender Differences in the Perceptions of
Television New Anchors' Career Barriers
In the U.S. today, half of all TV news reporters and anchors are women
(Stone, 1997). Twenty-five years ago, women made up only 13% of the television
news workforce (Stone, 1997). This dramatic increase in the number of women in
a once male-dominated profession serves as one result of what Pamela Creedon
calls the "gender switch," which occurred during the mid-1970s when more women
than men enrolled in college journalism and mass communication courses (1989).
While the "gender switch" has resulted in increased numbers of women in the
media workforce, here we pose the question: Has equality in numbers been
accompanied by an equality in the challenges both men and women in the TV news
profession face on the job, and in those related to work-related factors of
In this study, we focus on the career challenges faced by television news
anchors. News anchors hold a prominence in the profession; their visibility in
the public eye serves as an obvious example of men and women doing the same job.
As Stone (1974) noted some twenty years ago, the news anchor occupation provides
a visible and daily example of men and women working as equals. The viewing
audience, that is, society, can see both men and women performing the same
anchor duties on camera. However, to find out if they truly hold equal status
within the profession, we must also see if they have the same experiences off
In comparing men and women anchors' work experience, we must acknowledge the
importance of gender roles in how anchors perceive their jobs, and how they are
treated both in the newsroom and by the public. The obvious fact that they are
of different genders, as defined by societal expectations based on one's sex,
leads to consideration of how such identities affect the way they deal with the
various demands of the job. As Wood points out, "we internalize identities that
shape how we understand the common life of a culture and our own places,
opportunities, and priorities within it" (1994, p. 54). Thus, in making the
inquiry into the similarities and differences in the career perceptions of men
and women anchors, we must frame our investigation and our results to reflect
society's overall expectations of the sexes.
Previous research in this vein, although lacking in specific acknowledgment
that men and women are expected and do fulfill different roles in society, has
documented gender differences that reflect traditional societal attitudes,
expectations, and roles. For example, Ferri and Keller (1986) studied the
career perceptions of women anchors and found that women's career barriers,
those factors that served as hindrances in their professional development,
centered on gender-related issues. Their survey questionnaire consisted of
items that measured the extent to which certain work and home-related factors
served as career barriers.
Ferri and Keller's findings show that among the most significant of these
experienced by the anchor women in their study were: the overemphasis placed on
physical appearance, overcoming gender stereotypes, and differential treatment
in the hiring process based on their sex. Ferri and Keller concluded that women
news anchors believed difference evaluation standards existed for men and women:
"The respondents noted that they are often judged by their appearance while
their male counterparts are judged more for their work skills" (1986, p. 467).
This has been a traditional challenge that women in TV news have coped with over
the years (Sanders and Rock, 1988), as well as an issue not only for women
portrayed in the media, but for women in society (Wood, 1994).
Ferri (1988) followed up the 1986 results by comparing women anchors'
perceptions of career hindrances with those of men anchors. He concluded that
women anchors perceived more barriers than their male counterparts. The issue
of physical appearance was perceived differently by both sexesDit ranked as much
more of a career barrier for women anchors than for men. However, Ferri
compared men's perceptions using the career barriers of women as a baseline
rather than determining the top-rated career barriers of both to compare
differences and similarities in their work experiences.
Smith, Fredin, and Nardone (1989) studied women and men TV news reporters'
career attitudes. While they could find no "tangible evidence" for sexism, they
did conclude that sexist attitudes still persisted during the time of their
survey. The researchers did not examine other specific work-related factors of
men and women reporters, such as those connected to gender roles. However, in
presenting their findings to a local SPJ (Society of Professional Journalists)
chapter, several women anchors pointed out that their study did not address the
difficulties in balancing family and work lives.
Burks and Stone (1993) studied the career perceptions of men and women TV news
directors. They concluded that both men and women in their survey reported a
lack of quality time at home. However, women news directors perceived their
family obligations as impeding their career progress. This perception,
concluded Burks and Stone, may account for the underrepresentation of women in
upper-management. Weaver and Wilhoit (1996) reiterate this difficulty faced by
women in the media professions: "_by 1992, more women and men journalists were
managing to balance their personal and professional lives. But the difficulty
of combining career and family seemed greater for women than for men although
there were some signed that this was changing
in US journalism" (p. 179).
In summary, the studies mentioned above offer consistent findings that
generally illustrate women in the TV industry contend with traditional gender
role expectations in their careers. Most notable of these include expectations
concerning women's physical appearance and the difficulties in balancing careers
In assessing the status of women in the TV anchoring profession, we must gauge
how they are progressing in terms of a comparison with their male counterparts.
In this study, then, we examine how men and women anchors perceive their careers
to discover similarities and differences in their work-related experiences.
More than ten years have passed since Ferri's study of men and women TV anchors.
Here we will update his results, and augment other studies' findings regarding
men and women's career perceptions in the television profession.
As mentioned above, we seek to discover if a simple parity in the numbers of
women and men on-air news personnel means equality of employment in terms of
gender. Thus, we pose the following research question: What career barriers to
women and men television news anchors perceive in the late 1990s? We define
"career barrier" as a work-related factor that serves as a hindrance in the
advancement of one's career progress.
By examining gender differences in the career perceptions of men and women
anchors, we take a feminist-based perspective to this study. In doing so, we
also consider the nature of gender in society, and pay specific attention to the
status of women in society, elements included in feminist theories (Cirksena and
Cuklanz, 1992). Through this study, we hope to contribute to the growing amount
of research that recognizes the importance of women's experiences in the study
of communication in general, another element of the feminist perspective, as
described by Rush and Grubb-Swetnam (1996).
Additionally, we see a practical side to this type of research that
investigates and describes the career perceptions of women news professionals.
By documenting the personal and professional characteristics of the people in
the media profession, we can educate both our female and male students not only
about the demands of such a career, but also how the working world reflects
overall society. At the same time, we can challenge future media professionals
to instigate changes in their working environments that promote equity between
the sexes. These changes within the media workplace, we hope, eventually will
translate to changes in media content, as Creedon had hoped the gender switch
would have done (1993).
We used the listing of all U.S. television stations in the 1996
Broadcasting and Cable Yearbook (R. R. Bowker, 1996) to select our survey
respondents. We included each station accompanied by a news director's name or
newsroom phone number in our initial sampling of TV stations. Seven-hundred
ninety-five stations of the 1,670 listed met this requirement. We then used a
random numbers table to find a starting point on the list of 795 stations, and
included every fourth one. Each station's newsroom was then called to obtain
the names of its main news anchors. College stations were replaced by the next
station on the list, as were those stations that, though listed as having a
newsroom number, when called, did not actually have a news operation. We
obtained a total of 476 anchors' names; 241 were female, 235 were male.
We mailed questionnaires to the 476 anchors during the late spring of 1997.
Four weeks after that initial mailing, we sent postcard reminders to those who
had not returned their questionnaires. After another four weeks, we re-mailed
the questionnaire to those anchors who had not responded to our reminder. We
finally achieved a 52% response rate, as per Babbie's (1995) recommendation,
during mid-summer 1997. The 236 local station news anchors who returned
completed questionnaires comprised our final sample. Of those, 118 were men and
128 were women.
We based our survey instrument on Ferri and Keller's (1986) questionnaire. It
consisted of a series of statements related to factors of work and personal life
that anchors might perceive as career obstacles. For the purposes of our study,
we included only those items from Ferri and Keller questionnaire that pertained
to our research question. These included statements regarding the overemphasis
of physical appearance, lack of professional network/support groups, balance
between work and family, lack of mentors, differential treatment based one's
gender, additional pressures to prove one's worth due to gender, relocation,
professional preparation, and lack of support from family and friends. These
statements were written based on the respondent's sex. For example, for women
anchors, the item concerning role conflicts on the job and at home was stated:
"There are conflicts between the role of professional newscaster and
wife/mother." For men anchors, this item was worded, "There are conflicts
between the role of professional newscaster and husband/father."
Before the initial mailing, we sent questionnaires to eight news anchors, four
men and four women, in the local market who were not part of our sample. We
asked them for feedback on the face validity and readability of the
questionnaire and for any other suggestions they had. A few of the women
anchors made comments concerning inequities in salary. We decided to include an
item on this issue: "My salary is comparable to my male ('female' for men
anchors) who have similar qualifications and experience."
We chose not to include two of Ferri and Keller's career-related items because
of the wording and prejudicial nature of those statements. Both items referred
to minority or male favoritism in the hiring process. Thus, our questionnaire
contained a total of 34 items, worded as statements, designed to measure the
extent to which they served as career obstacles for the anchors.
Respondents were asked to what degree they agreed or disagreed with each of the
34 statements on a five-point, Likert-type scale. Values ranged from one, for
"strongly disagree," to five, for "strongly agree." A response of "neither
agree or disagree" was assigned a value of three. A reliability analysis
conducted for all 34 items using all cases (n = 221) resulted in a Cronbach's
alpha of .91.
A blank space accompanied each item so that respondents could write
comments. At the end of the 34 items, we asked the respondents to offer any
other career barriers they had experienced, and provided a blank space for this
Demographic information items included age, marital status, number of children
living at home, education level, market size, number of years in broadcasting,
and number of years in current position. We also asked respondents how
successful they rated themselves in their career.
We wanted to know which of the 34 items respondents thought served as
important career barriers, based on their sex. Using Ferri and Keller's (1986)
method, we distinguished barriers from non-barriers (factors which did not seem
to hinder anchors' career progress) by employing the quartile deviation, or
semi-quartile range. This statistic is based on Spiegel's formula using the
first and third quartiles as determined by an array of item means.1 By
subtracting the quartile deviation from the third quartile, we determined the
cut-off mean for those items deemed as important barriers. We determined the
non-barrier cut-off mean by subtracting the quartile deviation from the first
quartile. Those items whose means fell between the two were considered as
neither important nor unimportant, in that they represented mostly neutral
("neither agree nor disagree") responses.
For the women anchors in our sample, mean scores for all items ranged from 3.86
(a highly important barrier) to 1.83 (not a barrier). Item means between 3.86
and 3.38 were considered important barriers; item means between 2.48 and 1.83
were considered non-barriers. For the men anchors, means scores for all items
ranged from 3.7 to 1.86. Items considered as important career barriers had
means between 3.7 and 2.97; non-barrier means were between 2.41 and 1.86.
The mean age of the women anchors was in the "between 30 and 34" category;
men anchors' mean age was in the "between 40 and 44" category. Of the women
anchors, 4% were under 25 years of age; 24% were between 25 and 29; 25% were
between 30 and 34; 25% were between 35 and 39; 17% were between 40 and 44; and
4.7% were between 45 and 49. Of the men anchors, 1% was under 25; 6% were
between 25 and 29; 10% were between 30 and 34; 20% were between 35 and 39; 17%
were between 40 and 44; 19% were between 45 and 49; 17% were between 50 and 54;
and 1% was 55 or older.
Overall, these figures reflect Ferri's (1988) sample, in which men's
(M = 38, sd = 9.72) was about 10 years older than the women's (M = 27.8, sd =
7.25). In the ten years or so since Ferri and Keller's study, mean ages of men
and women anchors seem not to have changed substantially. The implication of
this finding points to the possibility that women don't stay in their
broadcasting careers as long as men do.
The mean age at which men anchors were appointed to their current jobs was
(SD = 7.1), while women's mean age was 29 (SD = 4.8). The mean number of
years the men anchors had their current job was 8.6 (sd = 9.2), while women
averaged 5.4 years (SD = 5.1). Men anchors averaged 13 years' experience in
broadcasting (SD = 8.1), women, 6.5 years
(SD = 4.7).
Regarding the education level of the anchors in our sample, 86% of the women
reported holding a bachelor's degree, while 67% of the men did. More men,
however, reported holding a graduate degree (13%) than did women (8%). Fifteen
percent of the men reported that their highest education level was some college,
while only 4% of the women did so.
Most of the anchors were married (59% of the women, 68% of the men). More of
the women tended to be single (31%), than did the men (16%). With the age
statistics in this sample, it was not surprising that more men were divorced
(16%) than were the women (9%).
Concerning pay, women's mean salary was in the "between $60-70,000" category,
while men anchors' mean salary was in the "between $70-$80,000" category. It
should be noted that anchors in larger markets tended to report making $100,000
or more. On the item "My salary is comparable to my male/female counterparts
who have similar experience and seniority," 45% of women anchors agreed or
strongly agreed that their salaries were comparable to their male counterparts;
45% disagreed or strongly disagreed; and 9.4% indicated a neutral response. For
men anchors, 21% agreed or strongly agreed that their salaries were comparable
to their female counterparts; 55% disagreed or strongly disagreed; and 23%
indicated they neither agreed nor disagreed.
In terms of career success, 50% of the women said they felt "very
successful," 41% reported being "moderately successful," and 6% indicated they
were at or near the start of their career. Forty percent of the men said they
were "very successful," 58% felt "moderately successful," and 2% said they were
at or near the start of their career.
Perceived Career Barriers
In comparing how the women and men anchors in this study perceived
potential career barriers as presented in the 34 items, we see that anchors of
both sexes do share similar views, especially pertaining to the balancing of
work and family life. However, their views obviously differ when we consider
their top-ranked career barriers. Table I presents the top-ranked items as
calculated using the semi-quartile range.
Women's top-rated career barrier concerned the emphasis they perceive others,
such as viewers, management, and colleagues, place on their physical appearance
(M = 3.86, sd = 1.14). Seventy-five percent of the women anchors agreed or
strongly agreed that there exists an overemphasis on the way they look compared
to their male counterparts. This sampling of comments illustrates the importance
of appearance for women anchors as compared to men: "Women are supposed to
appear attractive, perhaps even glamorous_the men just have to look
trustworthy"; "Male anchors here are allowed out-of-date or sloppy dressDbut I
am not"; "My co-anchor rarely if ever gets comments"; and, "Oh yeah! Tell me
the last time a male's hair color came into question."
The overemphasis on physical appearance item is listed as 27th among the 34
items for men anchors (M = 2.11, sd = .81), with only 7% of men agreeing or
strongly agreeing that there is too much emphasis placed on their physical
appearance compared to their female counterparts. This finding indicates that
for men, physical appearance is not very important. In fact, the men anchors
that commented on this item actually supported the sentiment illustrated in the
above comments made by women. Wrote one male anchor, "Women are subject to
more scrutiny regarding their appearance." Another reiterated, "The women have
it much tougher!" One anchor admitted that he doesn't get nearly the same
attention regarding his appearance: "Viewers constantly make note of female
anchors' new hairstyle or clothes. No one calls about my appearance."
The lack of professional network and support groups ranked as the
number-one career barrier for male anchors (M = 3.7, sd = .92); 61% of them said
they strongly agree or agree that there is a lack of such, only 10% disagreed.
Several of the male anchors' comments regarding this item, such as, "Considering
we're all in competition I doubt you could get such a group," and, "It's a
competitive, subjective business so pooling of thoughts might be
counter-productive," reflect the generally competitive nature of the news
business. Ten percent of male respondents disagreed or strongly disagreed that
there is a lack of professional support groups. Wrote one, "Don't think there
is a need for one." Another commented, "That's probably why so many people use
agents, at least one reason, anyway." One anchor acknowledged that, "I'm pretty
much out here on my ownDadvice is pretty slim pickings." Others simply wrote
that they did not know of any professional network groups solely for men.
Women anchors also seemed to consider the lack of professional networks
highly as a barrier (M = 3.42, sd = 1.02), although not as strongly as did the
men (see Table 1). Fifty-three percent of the women agreed or strongly
disagreed there is a lack of such groups. This item elicited few comments by
the women anchors. However, several did write that professional groups existed
for women, such as "Women in Television and Radio," and "Women in
Communications," but none were tailored specifically for women news anchors.
Wrote one, "Although 'Women in Radio and Television' has a local chapter,
they're mainly sales oriented here. I have not suffered for lack of a support
group." Several (20%) disagreed or strongly disagreed that there is a lack of
such groups. One woman anchor's comment reflected this opinion: "The network
is there if you seek it out. It is not necessarily within your career, but may
be in adjacent careers."
Both men and women anchors seemed to perceive conflicts between their roles
as professional newscasters and husbands/fathers and wives/mothers as highly
important as career barriers. This item ranked second for women anchors (M =
3.64, sd = 1.2) and fourth for men anchors (M = 3.15, sd = 1.14). Fifty-seven
percent of women anchors agreed or strongly agreed that they experience this
conflict between being a newscaster and wife/mother, while 17% disagreed. For
men, 42% agreed or strongly agreed with this statement, while 36% disagreed or
Many of the comments made by all respondents had to do with the irregular
hours their jobs required. For example, one woman anchor wrote, "Most
newscasting jobs are evening hour jobs. It makes it difficult to have much
family time." This difficulty in juggling their roles at work and at home was
reflected in two women anchors' similar comments: "It is almost impossible to
do both well"; "It's impossible to take time for a personal life while climbing
the never-ending ladder."
Being an anchor and a mother seems to pose an especially difficult
challenge for the women in our study. Even those without children acknowledged
this, with comments such as: "I don't have children, but I don't know how those
who do handle it all"; and, "I am not a mother, because I can't imagine being
able to successfully do both. TV news is a year-round full-time times two
commitment and I would be failing in both duties if I was a mother too."
Several women anchors pointed out that they've had problems with management
based on their having a family, as these comments illustrate: "Both family and
work expect you to be there whenever they need you. I can't always do both and
I think that my employer holds it against me"; "Management says it understands,
but neither understands nor forgives when there's a news emergency and Mom is
needed elsewhere"; "I've been turned down for jobs once I've mentioned I have a
familyDit turns into a 'dirty secret'; and "I have felt my hiring_has been
affected by the fact I'm married. I feel it will be even harder when I have
Some of the women anchors commented that they were able to handle both
roles with some help. As one wrote," You need a very patient husband." One
woman anchor, a mother of four, acknowledged the help she had from her spouse:
"The only way I am able to work the hours I do, 2 or 3 p.m.-midnight or 1 a.m.
and raise four children is to have a very supportive husbandDwho makes dinner
and puts the kids to bed too!" Another, who disagreed that she experienced such
conflict, wrote, "I've made the choice to get married, have a child, and work.
Therefore, I must balance out these roles. My husband is very helpful!"
The men anchors didn't make as many comments concerning the dual roles
conflict item as the women did. Some did point out, however, that their job
hours took away from time at home. One anchor, who worked the 5, 6 and 10
newscasts, commented that he didn't get to see his children enough: "I take
them to school but then don't see them again. Not enough quality time with kids
and my wife." Wrote another, "Most newscasts air from 5-11 p.m. preventing a
father from being with his family."
As with the item regarding the conflict between work and family/marital
roles, the difficulty of balancing their job and family rated highly for both
sexes (for men, M = 3.27,
sd = 1.14; for women, M = 3.52, sd = 1.16). As Table 1 shows, this item was
ranked almost equally for men and women anchors. Fifty-one percent of the men
anchors agreed or strongly agreed that it is hard for them to balance family and
job, while 63% of the women did.
As with the previous item, more women made comments than did the men. Many
of these had to do, again, with the long hours required to work in the news
industry. Comments such as, "We work until the story is done, not until 5
p.m.," and, "This is not an 8 hour a day job," reflected this attitude. One
woman anchor wrote that she found it difficult to make friends due to her
irregular working hours. "I've had to stop or ignore my personal life many
times for the sake of my job," wrote another. One woman anchor commented that
motherhood seems to add to the difficulty in balancing work and home life:
"Even without children, I am even putting a family on hold until I learn how to
balance my life better." As one anchor put it bluntly, "My family ends up
coming second." Some women anchors, however, did not perceive this to be a
problem, as these comments demonstrate: "It does make a social life tough, but
you work around it," and "This hasn't been a career barrier, but it is a very
real fact of the job."
Only five male anchors made comments on this item. Combined, their comments
seem to show they've accepted the fact that the job takes away from home time,
as this comment typifies: "It's part of the job. It's time consuming. I
advise people it isn't an 8 hour a day job." Wrote another, "It can be done but
it's a very full schedule."
In the TV news business, success is often measured by the size of the market in
which one works. This holds especially true for anchors, who many times start
in smaller markets and move up to larger ones to advance in their careers.
Thus, relocation serves as a requirement for progressing in the industry. This
rated rather highly for both men (M = 3.17, sd = 1.19) and women anchors (M =
3.38, sd = 1.24) in our sample, with a third place ranking for men and a fifth
place ranking for women. However, the response percentages perhaps better
indicate how the anchors felt about this being a career barrier. More women
agreed or strongly agreed that relocation hinders their progress (53%) than
disagreed or strongly disagreed (20%). While 48% percent of men agreed or
strongly agreed with this statement, a substantial amount, 40%, disagreed or
strongly disagreed that relocation is a barrier.
Those few men who made comments on the relocation item acknowledged it's
difficult to relocate with a family, as these comments show: "It's more
difficult for me to move because I have to take my family into account, and
moving to different, larger markets is almost always important"; and "This
should not be the case, but men have greater financial responsibility in
lifeDthus, the cost and risk of relocation is a major factor for many (not all)
men." Others accepted relocation as a fact of the business: "Change is almost
a given in this business"; "It's more of a pain, not a barrier."
Women anchors made considerably more comments on this item, but many also
seemed to accept relocation as part of the TV news career. One woman anchor who
strongly disagreed that relocating is a barrier wrote, "It's understood in this
businessDmale or female. If you want to advance, you go where the best job is.
I've moved four times."
Relocation, for women anchors, seems to pose more of a problem if one is in
a relationship, as these comments illustrate: "At some point it becomes more
difficult for women to convince male partners to relocate with them"; "When I
was single I considered moving no problem. Now that I'm married it is very
difficult to consider relocating because of the impact it will have on my
husband"; and, "Sometimes in order to advance you need to leave the market,
especially if you're already in the top position. Moving is difficult if you
have developed relationships or families. Many people simply quit." Taken
together, both men and women anchors' comments demonstrate that relocation may
not be as much, if at all, a problem for single people as it is for those who
have families to consider when accepting a job in another market.
Among the top-ranked career barriers for men was the item concerning youthful
appearance (item stated as, "Youth or appearing younger than your co-anchor is a
significant barrier if you are male") with a mean of 2.97 (sd = 1.14).2 Forty
percent of men anchors agreed or strongly agreed that this was a barrier, 18%
indicated a neutral response, and 42% disagreed or strongly disagreed. Only
three men commented on this item. One wrote that women had the burden of
appearing youthful, another commented that male anchors reached their prime
later than female anchors, and one wrote, "I spent 7 years in radio before going
into television because I looked too young." For women anchors, however,
appearing younger than their co-anchor ranked 10th among the 34 items (M = 2.88,
sd = 1.25); it was not considered an important barrier based on our calculation.
Other Career Barriers: Comments on Open-ended Question
The comments made by the respondents regarding other career barriers they
have experienced fall into rather different themes for each sex. The women
anchors' concerns seemed to reiterate in large part the career barriers as
presented in the 34 questionnaire items. Most of the men anchors' comments,
however, centered on difficulties in dealing with management and the uncertain
nature of the TV business in terms of hiring and firing.
Of the 128 women anchors in our study, 27 offered comments regarding additional
barriers. These comments, in order of frequency of mentions, related to the
following issues: difficulty balancing family and work (6); racial issues, such
as in hiring practices or treatment of minority women (6); reiteration of
physical appearance concerns (4); differential treatment based on sex, in regard
to salary and promotion (3); competition with other women (2); and dealing with
gender stereotyping or sexism (2). Six women anchors wrote that they did not
perceive any career barriers at all.
Twenty-five of the 118 men anchors listed additional career barriers. Their
comments followed these general themes, in order of frequency of mentions:
problems dealing with or caused by management (9); the subjective nature of
hiring and firing, such as not having the right "look," being too young or too
old, and job uncertainty (7); racial issues, such as hiring preferences for
minorities (4); financial and family aspects of relocating (2); and contractual
obligations (2). One male anchor commented he lacked motivation to send out
resume tapes. Another anchor mentioned that his most significant career barrier
was the problem of finding more serious reporting jobs.
A large number of the 34 items fell into the non-barrier range for both men
and women anchors. However, we find it worth noting which of these were
considered the least significant in terms of hindering anchors' career
advancement. For both, lack of confidence ranked at the near-bottom of the
We chose a mean of 2.0 or less (indicating a very high percentage of
disagree or strongly disagree responses) as a starting point in considering
these low-ranked items. For women anchors, these items included lack of
motivation due to past obstacles (M = 2.0, sd = 1.06), lower career aspirations
due to limited opportunities for women (M = 2.0, sd = .92), lack of confidence
(M = 1.89, sd = 1.12), and lack of encouragement and support from family and
peers (M = 1.83, sd = .97). Items with of means 2.0 or less for men anchors
included: lack of confidence (M = 1.96, sd = 1.09), not enough opportunities to
write and report hard news (M = 1.91, sd = .55) and reporting more soft news
than female colleagues (M = 1.86, sd = .73).
In this study, we aimed to discover how men and women news anchors in the 1990s
perceive various factors related to their careers. Specifically, we asked
anchors to evaluate these factors in terms of how they served as hindrances in
their career development. We asked these professionals about career barriers
that affect their on-the-job performance and their personal life.
We found two major themes in comparing how men and women TV anchors think
about those challenges. First, women anchors rated the overemphasis placed by
others on their appearance as being a major challenge in doing their job.
Second, we found that men and women anchors share career barriersDmost notably,
and we think, significantly, those related to the balance between career and
family/personal life. Other similar challenges include relocation and lack of
professional network and support groups. We discuss the implications of these
findings in the following paragraphs.
Overemphasis on Women's Appearance
The women news anchors in this study clearly view the attention paid to
their physical appearance as the major challenge to their career development.
In the decade or so since Ferri's (1988) study, and first documented by Ferri
and Keller in 1986, this emphasis on physical appearance as being a major career
challenge has not changed. We find rather telling that this item on the
questionnaire elicited the most comments by women respondents.
Mass media portrayals of women, including those of women TV newscasters, have
traditionally emphasized beauty and youth as ideals (Wood, 1994; Sanders & Rock,
1988). Such appearance standards reflect a general gender role expectation by
society for women to not only present themselves in a desirable manner, but also
to take an interest in such cosmetic concerns. Though both men and women pay
attention to their appearance, Marshment (1997) points out that "an interest in
appearance has become defined as a feminine one" (p. 140). Marshment explains
further: "Cultural definitions identifying femininity with an 'attractive'
appearance compound this identification" (p. 140). Our results show that for
women anchors, both management and viewers expect this ideal of femininity.
Newscast viewers' scrutiny of women anchors' clothing, make-up and hair, as
evidenced in women anchors' comments, illustrates the significance of appearance
not only on television, but also in our culture. It seems, as women
respondents' comments show, that viewers hold some beauty standards for women
anchors, who appear in the role of newscaster in TV newscast content. Because
women anchors actually are part of media messages--and serve as real-life
portrayals of TV anchors, this finding here might not be surprising at all.
However, it does crystallize once again society's expectations not only for
women who appear in the media, that is, actresses in films or TV shows, or
models in advertisement, but also for women in general to be attractive (Wood,
1994). Researchers might be interested to find out the gender of viewers who
call women anchors to comment about their appearance.
Those in news management also place an emphasis on women anchors'
appearance. In that some markets are anchor-driven, that is, dependent on
viewer loyalty to their favorite anchors, management wants to ensure ratings by
keeping viewers happy with their station's anchors. Thus, this extra support of
beauty standards by those hiring and firing women anchors perpetuates this
attitude. Women anchors, then, instead of concentrating on the job of
delivering the news, but contend daily with such cosmetic concerns. As one
woman anchor put it, "I get twice as many comments from the GM [general manager]
on my hair than I will on a series I doDor my performance." As long as this
appearance emphasis exists for women, it is unlikely that they will be able to
achieve a true parity with men in the TV news industry.
Balancing Work and Family Life
Aside from the physical appearance factor, the women and men anchors in our
study shared similar concerns about the difficulties of maintaining career goals
with family and personal aspects of their lives. Anchors of both sexes
responded similarly to the items "conflict between roles of wife/mother or
husband/father and professional newscaster" and "hard to balance family and
job"; these ranked highly as career barriers. Apparently, both men and women
news anchors find that their professional and person needs conflict in some
We find this interesting, in that it shows that the traditional male in
society, who has been allowed to put his professional life first and letting it
supersede his other roles (such as father and husband) might be changing.
Almost half the men anchors (48%) reported having one or more children living
with them; it might be possible that children and family life play a highly
significant part in the professional and personal aspects of these respondents'
We found, through their comments, that the concern with the balance between
home and family life and roles of mother/wife and professional newscaster even
more salient to women anchorsDeven those who are not yet married or have
children. The prospect of juggling a news career with starting a family already
poses a challenge for some of these women. Several who did have children wrote
that management showed little sympathy or support for their responsibilities as
mothers. None of the men anchors' comments mentioned either of these concerns.
So, while the men anchors in this study indicate family and work concerns pose a
challenge in their careers, it seems as if parenting issues pose an even greater
one for the women. From what we can glean from our data, this implication
supports Wood's assertion that women play the role of caregiver in society
Relocation as a Career Barrier
Both women and men news anchors in our sample view the mobile nature of the
news business as a career problem. Several commented that relocating simply is
part of the TV news business; one must move on to move up. However, their
comments again suggest this career challenge serves as such for different
reasons. For example, a number of the women anchors commented that having to
relocate for the sake of progressing in their careers posed a difficulty for
For men anchors who commented on this item, none mentioned their
wives'/partners' difficulties in relocating with them. Instead, the few
comments made suggested personal frustration and family concerns, especially for
those with children. One divorced male anchor wrote, "I would think twice about
moving too far away from my kids." Relocation for the men anchors in our study
has more to do with uprooting their families than accommodating a dual-career
Lack of Professional Network
Both men and women anchors in our sample agree on the problem of the lack of
networking or support groups in their professional lives. A number of men
anchors noted the competitiveness of the news business as preventing an
effective professional network. Women anchors' comments suggest that there is a
lack of women-specific organizations that are also job-specific. Several
mentioned the names of some professional organizations for women in media.
However, they did note that such groups targeted women in areas other than
purely on-air news anchoring or reporting. Also, the lack of time to devote to
such networks, as noted by some of the women anchors, might factor into the
absence of job-specific organizations.
Suggestions for Future Research
The various additional career barriers offered by the anchors in our study
could be incorporated in a future study to see how anchors perceive their
importance. Future researchers might find that management issues, especially
those concerning subjective hiring practices and uncertainty of job security,
play a vitally important part in an anchor's career progress.
Our sample consisted of women and men news anchors at local television news
stations. A more inclusive study would include new anchors at the network
level. Now that more women taking on anchoring duties in national newscasts,
such as at CNN, MSNBC, and CNBC, the feasibility of a similar survey with a
sample consisting of network anchors seems possible.
Researchers could study gender differences in other facets of television news.
For example, they might examine the career challenges of women sportscasters.
One might predict their challenges in making progress in the male-oriented
sportscasting field would mirror those of women news anchors in the early years
of their entry into the news profession.
The investigation of career perceptions of women and men in other
television jobs serves as another research path. Recent research has focused on
TV reporters, news directors, and anchors. New studies could look at gender
differences of TV news producers, production staff, and videographers. By
measuring the status of women in the media industry, we also gauge their status
in the working world, and, in turn, society as a whole.
Television News Anchors' Career Barriers--
1. The quartile deviation was calculated using the equation
Q = Q3 - Q1 , as noted by Murray R. Speigel in Schaum's Outline of Theory
and Problems of Statistics (1961), New York: McGraw-Hill, p. 70.
2. While the quartile deviation includes this item as an important barrier,
the 42% of men anchors that disagreed or strongly disagreed suggests it is not a
barrier. This illustrates the problem of transforming nominal data from the
original item to the ordinal scale required to calculate the quartile deviation.
Television News Anchors' Career Barriers--
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Television News Anchors' Career Barriers--
Top Career Barriers of Women and Men Anchors
Strongly Agree/ Neither Agree Strongly Disagree/
Career Barrier n SD M Agree nor Disagree Disagree
Overemphasis on 128 1.14 3.86 75% 7% 18%
Conflict between Roles 122 1.20 3.64 57% 20% 17%
of Wife/Mother and
Hard to Balance 128 1.16 3.52 63% 11% 26%
Family and Job
Lack of Professional 127 1.02 3.42 53% 27% 20%
Having to Relocate 128 1.24 3.38 54% 19% 27%
Strongly Agree/ Neither Agree Strongly
Career Barrier n SD M Agree nor Disagree Disagree
Lack of Professional 117 .92 3.7 61% 28% 10%
Hard to Balance Family 117 1.14 3.27 51% 13% 36%
Having to Relocate 118 1.19 3.17 48% 12% 40%
Conflict between Roles 117 1.14 3.15 42% 22% 36%
of Husband/Father and
Appearing Younger 117 1.15 2.97 40% 18% 42%
Notes: The higher the mean for each item, the greater its importance as a career
Percentages may not equal 100 due to rounding and missing values.