A majority of women in the Australian media industry are dissatisfied with their career progression and more than one-third are thinking about leaving their jobs, new research shows.

According to the 2024 Women in Media Insight Report, career aspirations are taking a back step around pay inequity, lack of obvious career progression and fears of redundancy.

The survey found that career dissatisfaction was at a three-year high.(Supplied: Women in Media)

Those wanting to leave were also more likely to be senior and mid-career professionals, rather than young women starting out.

The report comes at a time when Nine Entertainment is facing serious allegations of bullying and sexual harassment at the network and an ABC internal survey revealed that 13 per cent of all respondents within the News division had experienced sexual harassment in the past two years and 33 per cent in the past five years. 

Caitlin*, a female reporter who wishes to remain anonymous, said the findings — now at a three-year high — reflect the discouraging lack of opportunities and disheartening promotions of “mediocre” men among the industry.

‘Why do they get a free ride?’

“How can you have a no-dickhead policy if you have just promoted a dickhead, when you know he is a dickhead?” she said.

Caitlin* said she there were women reporters who hadn’t had a pay rise in four years watching men being constantly promoted.   (Getty Images)

Caitlin, who is using a pseudonym to protect her privacy, said in her previous job in a large newsroom, there were “four or five instances” of really discouraging promotions.

“There was a lot of chatter among the female reporters about the fact that there were always these mediocre men being promoted or saved from redundancy,” she said.

“There was just at least, I would say, probably four or five instances where you’re like, ‘that guy? That is the definition of a mediocre man.'” 

Caitlin described one instance in a previous newsroom regarding a male colleague who was well-known for his bullying behaviour towards females and gay men.

“When it looked like he was being promoted, a lot of woman were incredibly anxious at what that might mean,” she said. 

“It was one of these frustrating conversations, like ‘why did you promote him? You know he is a bully.’ 

“That’s the sort of thing that is an absolute morale killer.” 

CEO of Media Diversity Australia Mariam Veiszadeh says that dissatisfaction amongst culturally diverse women in media is even more complex given the layers of disadvantage and systemic issues they also face.

Mariam Veiszadeh says challenges faced by culturally diverse women in media are not necessarily dissimilar. (Image: Tracey Trompf)

“There is kind of a double whammy or triple whammy, which really amplify the disadvantage, amplify the potential pay gap, the gender pay gap, the racial pay gap,” she said. 

Last year, the Australian Bureau of Statistics revealed that on average, Australian women make $268.95 less than men per week.

But for women working in the media and communications industry, that pay gap is even higher, at $409.40 per week.

Young women leaving major gap in industry

The level of dissatisfaction and uncertainty towards career progression in the industry is at a three-year high at 57 per cent, according to the report. 

This is up by 13 per cent from 2023, and 3 per cent from 2022.

The majority of women were concerned about how much they were paid.(Supplied: Women in Media)

Pay inequality and lack of promotional opportunities are being cited as reasons women are considering leaving their jobs — in turn hindering women’s career progress into management and leadership positions, the research shows. 

Women comprise 53 per cent of the industry workforce in the early career stage but this rate progressively drops to 29 per cent of the most senior positions, data in the report shows. 

Research author Petra Buchanan, strategic advisor to Women in Media, says women in their early career who are leaving the sector are leaving a major gap in the industry. 

“What it means is we don’t have enough talent rising through the ranks in media to therefore ensure that we’ve got gender equity and people telling stories that are diverse and inclusive and representative of society,” she said.

Promotion and redundancy fears were a concern for many women.(Supplied: Women in Media)

According to the research, 47 per cent of early career women said they were “very dissatisfied” — a 23 per cent rise on the prior year. 

Alexandra Wake, associate professor of journalism at RMIT University, says the change of leadership for females into the most senior management is not occurring. 

“It’s still men in charge in most news organisations at the very top, making those final decisions and setting the direction,” he said. 

Alex Wake, associate professor in journalism at RMIT.(Supplied)

Caitlin* said the opportunities get fewer and fewer the higher up people go, yet workload doesn’t fade. 

“It takes a lot for someone who is 23 years old to say, ‘OK I’m going to be the one to trailblaze,'” she said. 

“Youthful idealism and optimism gets whittled away once you’ve been in the industry for 20 to 30 years and you realise it’s still a boys club.”

Ms Buchanan said that improvements can be made by listening and responding. 

“And so that’s around pay. It’s about opportunities for growth and it’s about managerial support,” she said. 

The Women in Media Industry Insight Report 2024 surveyed 329 participants across Australia in a ‘statistically robust national data sample’ with a margin of error of 5.72 per cent. 

The survey represents participants working in journalism, communications, production, public relations, publishing and digital media.