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Study Shows Journalism ‘Burnout’ Affects Women More Than Men

Ever-increasing workloads and added social pressure on women to put family first are driving their attrition from the profession.

A study published earlier this year from a University of Kansas professor indicates that women in journalism are experiencing higher levels of burnout and work overload than their male colleagues.

Professor of journalism Scott Reinardy surveyed over 1,600 journalists, 34 percent of them women, about levels of burnout, job satisfaction, workload, and support from their organization. The survey found that more women reported work overload as well as intentions to leave reporting or uncertainty about their future.

Women who intended to leave journalism had higher levels of exhaustion and cynicism and lower levels of professional efficacy or job satisfaction than women who intended to stay in the profession. In other words, these women were “classic burnout cases,” according Reinardy, who cited an increasingly demanding workload as the primary cause of high burnout rates.

Darsha Philips, a reporter for ABC7 in Los Angeles, remembers experiencing burnout a few years after taking a reporting job in L.A.

“The grind kind of got to me,” Philips said. “The schedule and the intensity was a bit overwhelming.”

One of the largest increases in workload comes from the 24/7 nature of online journalism and social media, Reinardy said. The requirement that reporters be social media savvy and interactive with their audience adds to their daily workload.

“Right now, there’s a huge push to be on social media and be on the web,” Philips said. “I’m having to post to four different social media sites with pictures and information and links, and all of that takes time.”

Philips also cited social pressures as a factor in women experiencing more frequent burnout. She said women experience different pressures than men, which can lead to more women putting their careers second to other obligations.

“[Women] stay where they are because they don’t want to uproot their family,” Philips said. “That causes burnout because they’re not challenging themselves, they’re not moving into a different job or a different position and they’re not getting what they want out of their career.”

Women tend to have fewer opportunities than men as they age, Philips added. This can lead to women spending less time in the newsroom and eventually leaving the industry altogether. In Reinardy’s study, 67 percent of women who experienced burnout said they intended to leave journalism or were not sure about their future in that career. If more women leave the newsroom, the diversity of news coverage will decrease--and that is problematic.

“Local newspapers will not be covering the same issues as they have in the past,” Reinardy said. “They won’t have those voices saying, ‘This is a women’s issue, we need to look at this’.”

The accelerated attrition of women from U.S. newsrooms forecast by Reinardy’s study may reverse resent increases seen in the number of women journalists and the number of stories highlighting gender inequality issues observed in the 2015 Global Media Monitoring Project.

To remedy this problem, Reinardy said the managers and owners of news organizations must evaluate how their staff is being treated and what kind of workload they are taking on. Newspapers must become more selective about what they can cover and allow their staff to have some say in choosing what kind of work they are doing.

Philips agreed that organizations need to offer more support to women, but she said that society as a whole also needs to change its views of women.

“There needs to be more of a shift to understanding that a woman’s career is just as important as a man’s career,” Philips said. “If we can as a society start supporting women more [and] giving them more opportunities to further their career, I think we’d cut down on burnout levels.”

--Sanika Bhargaw