Levelling the playing field in the media

Breaking through the ‘class ceiling’ is just one more challenge for many of our students from low income backgrounds.

Share Just 22% of by-lines on the front pages of UK daily newspapers are women Share on X Elise, MAP student & deputy editor of the Mancunion, is promoting women in the media Share on X Breaking through the ‘class ceiling’ is an obstacle for some of our students, read more here Share on X

There is a shortage and lack of appreciation of women working in the media. Research conducted by Women in Journalism found that on the front page of our daily newspapers, just 22% of by-lines were women.

This discrepancy is the same for both tabloids and broadsheets.

In addition, a recent survey conducted by the City University London found that almost half of all female journalists earn less than £28,800 a year, in comparison to about a third of their male counterparts.

However, gender is not the only factor that comes into play when talking about experiences within the industry; age, race and class also make a difference.

The 2012 Milburn report on social mobility found that “journalism has shifted to a greater degree of social exclusivity than any other profession.”

In the past few decades, acquiring a university degree has become an important precursor for accessing a career in the media. This, combined with the advent of unpaid internships, means the media is now seen by many as the preserve of the middle class.

Awareness over these issues has increased in recent years, but the reaction to tackling them has been slow.

Some progress at the national level is being made. In February 2016, Equalities minister Nicky Morgan announced that by 2018 all companies employing more than 250 people will have to publicly disclose their pay gap.

But is it enough to break down the barriers that make it more difficult for women, especially working class women, to access the industry? Let alone value and utilise their abilities once they start working?

Elise, one of our Undergraduate Access Scholarship students, isn’t waiting around to find out. With ambitions to work in the media, Elise has shown herself to be capable of tackling the issues head on.

Elise’s achievements

Throughout her university career Elise has built up an impressive repertoire of media experience alongside her English Language degree.

Elise completed freelance work throughout her time at Manchester, including writing blog content for Time Out. She has held a number of high profile roles in Britain’s biggest student newspaper ‘The Mancunion’, and this year she was elected Deputy Editor in Chief of the magazine.

Elise is passionate about working in the media and she wants to make sure that the industry is one that is accessible for women.

In 2016, Elise and other student journalists involved in the Manchester Media Group came up with and implemented the idea of organising a ‘Women in Media’ conference.

The main motivation behind organising the event was to provide a platform upon which conference goers could celebrate and learn from successful women in the industry.

Elise and other organisers hope that the conference empowered and encouraged students, particularly women, to grow confidence in their abilities.

Following the success of the 2016 conference, Elise became Chair of the 2017 Women in Media Conference, and managed to attract the support of Amnesty International and the NUS.

“I wanted to give students like me, who would otherwise be dissuaded, the confidence and motivation to get involved with the media.”

Undergraduate Access Scholarships

Being from Manchester and a lower income household Elise was able to participate in the Manchester Access Programme (MAP) .

The Manchester Access Programme is part of our effort to widen access to university to bright students from underrepresented socioeconomic backgrounds.

During MAP, students develop academic and research skills, visit the campus and can attend workshops, all of which prepare them for a University learning environment.

Widening access into the University to students from low income backgrounds is a priority, but equally as important is supporting them through their time here.

Having completed the programme and been accepted onto a course at Manchester, these students receive £2,000 of donor support for each year of their undergraduate study.

This is in addition to the Manchester bursary (that students from households earning less than £25,000 receive).

 “Having a scholarship has allowed me to make the most of my university experience across the entire three years.”

Impact on Elise

For Elise, having the scholarship meant reduced financial pressure and more time to spend pursuing her interests in media outside of her studies.

“The scholarship gave me more time to pursue the things that I enjoy like the Mancunion, Women in Media conference, and Fuse TV.”

Being able to get involved in student organisations is a really important part of university life and enables students to accumulate extremely valuable experience.

“I’ve always been interested in the media but by coming to university I have been equipped with the tools and confidence I needed in order to do something about it, which is how the Women in Media conference was born.”

Socioeconomic background does not define one’s talent, but to be able to make the most of this potential, opportunities need to be available.

Providing Elise with this scholarship meant she had more time to gain experience that is vital for acquiring and enhancing skills needed to work in the media.

To put it simply, these scholarships help to create a level playing field among students.

Future for Elise

Elise is currently working at the BBC as a Production Management Assistant on the ‘Contains Strong Language’ festival which will be hosted in Hull.

“My dream would be to produce television drama, it’s always something that I’ve been incredibly passionate about.”

Ongoing need

Over 3000 young people have completed the Manchester Access Programme, helping them to gain access to higher education.

But we need to make sure we can support students from working class backgrounds into university. For many tertiary sector jobs like journalism, you’ll very often need a degree.

If we don’t ensure we are widening access at university level, this will effect who can access industries like the media, impacting social mobility on a large scale.