ARTICLE: Acquiring digital capital is important but gendered

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Digital capital, i.e. information and communication technology skills and knowledge, is important in the struggle for power in journalism, increasing journalists’ chances for recruitment and advancement. Sara De Vuyst and Karin Raeymaeckers, of Ghent University, conducted 24 interviews with a cross-national sample to find out whether and how digital capital is gendered in journalism.

Digital capital is gendered in several ways: both in terms of evaluation and accumulation, the results show.

Considering evaluation, gender stereotypes result in a subtle bias, where womens’ digital skills are often questioned or underestimated. Some interviewees’ assumptions towards technology were gendered. Female journalists often communicated about “fear” and “distance” towards technology, whereas male journalists were more confident. Women were also less vocal about their digital skills, the authors write.

Limited access to support for child-care prevented some female journalists from investing time in external training sessions about technical skills, the interviews revealed. This too can hamper women’s accumulation of digital capital. The researchers suggest that internal training sessions for digital skills in newsrooms could help reduce the gender bias.

The authors note though, that considering the digital world as “masculine sphere” of journalism would be oversimplifying things. Some females participated in women-friendly networks, which increased their confidence and digital expertise, and also helped to question gender issues.

The article “Is Journalism Gender E-Qual?” was published in Digital Journalism and is available online (abstract free).

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