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"Under My Thumb":
Female On-Air Personalities on Classic Rock and Rock Radio Stations

by Debbie Savannah George
Georgia State University
a thesis completing the requirements of the
Masters of Art degree
in communication

Thesis Abstract

Radio is a pervasive medium, and many formats are targeted toward women. While previous studies indicate women are highly under-represented in radio, no exact figures exist on the total number of female on-air personalities.

Although research into the roles and treatment of women in society is abundant, no previous research has looked specifically at female on-air radio personalities. This thesis used in-depth interviews to examine the roles and treatment of female on-air personalities on morning shows at classic rock or rock radio stations in eleven of the top fifteen U.S. markets.

This study found that, for the most part, women are not faring well in this male-dominated environment. While none of the women interviewed specifically said that they are a victim of gender discrimination, as a group they: make less money than their male colleagues on the morning shows; are far more likely to be the traffic or news announcer rather than a host or co-host of the show; are less likely than the men to be employed by the stations, which provide higher salaries, more prestige and better benefits than the radio services for which a number of them worked; and do not have the same opportunities for outside promotion work or career advancement.

The women provided conflicting opinions about whether females have a harder time than men making it into radio, but most acknowledged that once in the door, few make it into management or the top slots. A number of women noted that they did not aspire to the top job on a morning show because they believed it was too stressful or they felt they could not do it well.

The vast majority of the women - all but one - experienced what many would consider sexual harassment at some point in their careers. Although some of the women interviewed declined to characterize the behavior of their male colleagues as harassment, they acknowledged it could be seen as such by others. However, even those who admitted they were sexually harassed said they did not go to a supervisor or attempt to stop the behavior because of fears concerning how they would be perceived by their colleagues and fears that they would not be able to get another job in the industry.

The End

Copyright © 2000 Debbie Savannah George. All rights reserved. Please do not steal my work. If you would like to reprint, please ask permission.