Women Studies/Women News Anchors and Appearance of Women in Media

Women News Anchors and Appearance of Women in Media


Women in the media have struggled to achieve the same respect and recognition as their male co-workers. Gender discrimination is still a very relevant topic that prevents many women in the media from reaching their potential. This issue can feed into the imposter syndrome for many of these women. It is no mystery that many women are also often paid less than their male colleagues. This is not because they are less talented than their male co-workers, but because they are imprisoned by stereotypes.

These stereotypes often come from viewers who call or write into the news stations to make compliments or criticisms of the female news anchors. These critiques are not about how they conduct interviews or of their delivery of the news, but rather about their appearance. Their male co-workers, however, receive praises and criticisms on their work performances and about the topics they raise.

Lisa Wilkinson is a news anchor for an Australian news station. She has spoken out at media lectures about the unfair expectations of women who are involved in the public life. Wilkinson said, “Today’s media landscape, particularly for women, is one now so focused on the glossy and the glamorous, it often eclipses and undermines everything else. When you’re a women doing breakfast TV, you quickly learn the sad truth that what you wear can sometimes generate a bigger reaction than even any political interview you ever do.” Her lecture is what inspired Karl Stefanovic to conduct his yearlong experiment.

Stefanovic is also a well-known news anchor in Australia, and colleague of Wilkinson, who wanted to make a point regarding this major gender inequality by conducting an experiment. He decided that he would wear the same blue suit for an entire year. He predicted that unlike his female co-workers, no one would notice. His prediction was validated. After a solid year of wearing the same blue suit, not one comment or complaint was made about it. Stefanovic announced to viewers of his experiment. He said, “I’m judged on my interviews, my appalling sense of humour- on how I do my job, basically. Whereas women are quite often judged on what they’re wearing or how their hair is. Women, they wear the wrong colour and they get pulled up.” Although there is a part of the population that is aware of this unfortunate phenomenon, there is still so many that are oblivious to it.

Women already face obstacles and gender discrimination that instill some form of doubt into their minds. Being judged on primarily their appearance and not their work performance does not help reinforce their confidence. Valerie Young wrote about the imposter syndrome. This is the idea that no matter how successful a woman may be, she feels inadequate and has self-doubt about her capability to run her position. Unfortunately, this is not an unusual circumstance. The imposter syndrome does not discriminate. It affects millions across all genders, races, and economic platforms (Young). Women, however, are more imprisoned by this affliction than men. Being judged solely on their appearance and not being recognized for their work accomplishments can acerbate women’s self-doubt. Another aspect that feeds into the imposter syndrome is that women are often paid less than men (Eagly & Carli, 2007). It is also not uncommon for men who are less qualified than their female colleagues to make more money and receive promotions. Some sociologists argue that many work environments are plagued by discrimination, and that there is cultural devaluing of women’s work performance (Eagly & Carli, 2007).

Due to cultural stigma, women in the media have an uphill battle. Not only do they face discrimination in the workplace, but also from their viewers. Rather than being valued for their work performance, they are judged mainly on their appearance. This type of criticism can feed into the imposter syndrome, and make them feel less than worthy for their job. Unfortunately, until society starts changing its way of thinking, it is unlikely that women in the media will gain the same respect and accolades as their male colleagues.