Majority of female graduates abandon careers due to societal challenges in KP
PESHAWAR: In a striking trend, despite a growing number of female graduates in Journalism and Mass Communication departments across Khyber Pakhtunkhwa universities, 90 percent of students are abandoning their journalism careers upon completion of their degrees.
This unsettling underrepresentation of females in the field has sparked profound questions about the societal norms and the prevailing culture of the province. Every year, numerous students eagerly enroll in journalism programs, yet disillusionment sets in post-graduation, leading them to veer away from this profession due to a range of issues they face.
In a candid statement, Ramal Ijaz Khan, a freelance journalist and owner of a photo studio in Kohat district of KP, expressed her challenges. “I was the first one from my family to graduate with a degree in journalism from a small town in Kohat village. However, adopting journalism as a career was a greater challenge as there were no local media outlets in my area. Traveling to Peshawar or Islamabad was not acceptable to my family. As a result, I started teaching in different colleges on a visiting basis.”
One of the main reasons for the reluctance of females to pursue journalism careers is the stereotype prevalent in society. Females working in media channels often do not receive due respect from their surroundings. This stems from the male-dominated nature of society, where females are discouraged from entering male-oriented jobs and face dire consequences if they do so. Journalism is one such field with negligible female representation, added Ramal Ijaz.
Andaleeb Qazi, who graduated from the Department of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Peshawar in 2008, pursued a career as a working journalist with different media channels but resigned within two years. “Journalism is known for its demanding and unpredictable nature, often presenting significant challenges in maintaining a healthy work-life balance. After getting married, work-life balance became impossible for me. The domestic responsibilities were overwhelming and couldn’t be managed alongside journalism, which is a time-demanding job,” she explained.
Another significant factor contributing to the reluctance of females to enter the field of journalism is the pervasive gender bias prevailing in the media industry. Despite progress in gender equality in many sectors, journalism remains a male-dominated profession where women struggle to acquire equal positions. Andaleeb emphasized the need for greater gender parity.
According to a report published by Freedom Network titled “Life as Women in Pakistani Journalism,” less than five percent of the estimated 20,000 journalists in Pakistan are femaleThe report also highlights the alarming fact that Pakistan ranks as the fourth most dangerous country for journalists in terms of journalists killed in the line of duty. Such threats make female journalists hesitant to enter the field due to concerns about their safety and the well-being of their families. Additionally, the lack of mentorship and limited opportunities for leadership roles contribute to the disillusionment of aspiring female journalists.
The World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2022 revealed Pakistan’s severe gender gap issues in various areas, including educational attainment, economic participation, health, political empowerment, and journalism. Pakistan has the lowest (4.5%) share of senior, managerial, and legislative roles for women, further emphasizing the need for gender equality in the field.
Female students who choose journalism as their career path face discouragement due to the prevailing hostile work culture. During the final semester of their studies, internships with media organizations are a prerequisite for their degree. However, numerous incidents of workplace harassment and mistreatment faced by females in media organizations deter them from pursuing journalism as their future career. Such a toxic environment creates an atmosphere of fear and insecurity for aspiring female journalists.
The latest available data on Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) five shows that the world is not on track to achieve gender equality by 2030. Pakistan has been ranked as the second-worst country in terms of gender parity, placing 145th out of 146 states, in the Global Gender Gap Report released by the World Economic Forum in 2022.If gender parity and a conducive environment poses numerous issues for female journalists in their workplaces, leading them to seek fields where they can perform their responsibilities in a peaceful manner.
Waseem Khattak, Chairman of the Journalism Department at Swabi University, identified two reasons why female students are reluctant to join the practical field of journalism. He explained that many journalism departments do not prioritize practical work, primarily focusing on theory. This lack of practical exercises during their university education results in difficulties for students when they enter the practical work environment after graduation. Furthermore, the conservative mentality prevalent in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa discourages females from working alongside their male colleagues.
Khattak noted that many female students report their parents’ disapproval of appearing on TV screens or working with males in offices. After completing their graduation, these female students often work as teachers in schools or in private girls’ colleges or schools.
“If we want our females to enter the media and the practical field of journalism, we need to change our thinking as parents and believe in our daughters and sisters,” Khattak emphasized.
According to Peshawar Press Club General Secretary Irfan Musazai around 10 female registered with Press Club while the total number female journalists working in filed are between 15 to 20 across the province.