In Spanish speaking networks today, many Latina journalists believe there has been an unspoken sex appeal rule that women had to abide by when on camera. It has been perceived that these journalists are valued more for their physical appearance rather than their talent as media professionals.
Whether its micro-aggressions hidden through humor or backhanded compliments being given by their male and female counterparts, these were all ways Latinas felt they had to adhere to a beauty standard and expectations when in front of the camera.
Former Univision reporter, Carina Garcia, says it was common to wear tight clothing, show cleavage, manipulate natural hair and even have surgical procedures done. This standard was normalized for Latina women who aspire to be on air talent and maintain longevity in the industry. They had to be willing to fit a mold that is predetermined and caters to what’s appealing according to the network’s viewers and supervisors.
According to a gender distribution study on television news anchors, conducted by research media expert Amy Watson from statista.com, Men make up 63% of news anchors in the industry while women make up the remaining 37%. This study shows the difficulty females face in pursuing a career within this field.
“The fact is, when you take a look at those in upper-management or in positions of power, it is overwhelmingly men and due to this, the images that you’re seeing on camera are shaped by their prejudices and unconscious biases,” says Hugo Balta, the former President of the National Association for Hispanic Journalists.
This issue is multilayered, and it goes far beyond gender says Balta. He believes it is imperative to also acknowledge the fact that women receive unfair treatment in comparison to their male counterparts when it comes to the pay gap, ageism, building a family, lack of representation, and many more.
In November of 2018, Marisol Seda, a former New York 1 Reporter sued the network for ageism alongside several other Latina women who no longer met the criteria expected of female news anchors. Garcia says, once a journalist surpasses a certain age range, it has been normalized for Latina media professionals to have their hours cut significantly or even have their positions terminated altogether.
“The number of women who are older or past a certain age, who are still on camera is few and far between, and men don’t have to deal with that. As men get older, they become more respected in the industry. They become more veterans, women don’t, women go behind the camera,” says Garcia.
Males also earn more than females, averaging over $90,780 a year, whereas female journalists average $80,250 a year, this results in a $10,000 difference according to the Washington Post Guild. This inequality is also consistent in other media careers as well where women are paid less to do the same job as their male counterparts.
Garcia emphasizes that the percentage of race and ethnicity in journalism only speaks to the lack of representation and inclusivity that these networks have also failed to implement, whether it be Latinas specifically, people of color or even just minorities in general.
Historically, people of color are often at a disadvantage, regardless of their work ethic and capabilities, many times resulting in a lack of equal opportunity for success. White people make up 70.7% of individuals in journalism careers according to recent numbers released by the Census Bureau, whereas Latinos make up 14.1%, Black/African Americans make up 8.1% and Asians stand at only 7.1%.
“How often have we seen Latinas being interviewed as experts? Doctors? Attorneys? Government? Teachers? Right? It’s very important that when you talk about equity,” says Balta. “That it also includes what stories are being chosen, the focus of those stories, and which voices are chosen to tell them.”
Balta believes, in order to see a positive change within the issues of sexualization, discrimination, inequality and lack of representation, conversations such as these need to be normalized, just as diversity, inclusion, and equal opportunity training must be mandated for media professionals as well.
Doris Bardales is a New York 1 breaking news reporter; she says she wants to be judged based on her work ethic not her physical appearance.
“As women, we have grown up to think that there’s a mold we need to fit in in order to be successful,” says Bardales. “I am hopeful for our future. One of the things that I am looking for is that we hear more Latino last names in NBC and ABC. If we don’t see ourselves there, we can never imagine ourselves to be in such a position.”
About The Authors:
Elizabeth Moyeno: (Left) is a senior Television and Digital Media major with a concentration in Sports Media and Journalism, and a minor in Leadership through Civic Engagement at Montclair State University, graduating in May of 2021. She will be returning to Montclair State University in Fall 2021 for her Master’s Degree in Higher Education, as she aspires to work in Student Affairs, helping future generations emerge as leaders in their communities. Connect with her on LinkedIn and Instagram.
Nicole Zorrilla:(Right) is a senior Television and Digital Media major with a concentration in Sports Media and Journalism with a minor in Business at Montclair State University, graduating in June of 2021. She’s worked in television production with HTTV, Sports PR Summit and Montclair News Lab. She aspires to work in the television industry in production and as on-air talent. Connect with her on LinkedIn and Instagram.