Indian Women Enrolled in Journalism School See Media Career as Path to Empowerment

Sep 272012
  • Akansha Srivastava on right takes notes as Bhutan's Susma Pradhan reads the Times of India newspaper

  • Gargi Singh confers with colleagues

  • WMA women in a huddle ahead of the news meeting

  • WMA students reading up before the morning news meeting

The World Media Academy has started its new academic year with a new partner: the 9.9 School of Convergence. By joining forces with 9.9, WMA is able to offer its students a multimedia experience that combines print, online and broadcast.

Our 22 students come from the north, south, east and west of this diverse country. We also have one international student, Susma Pradhan, who hails from Thimpu, Bhutan.

Susma is one of 14 women who make up this year's class. The fact that we have more women than men reflects a big shift in India’s television and multimedia news industry. It signals that women in India – and elsewhere in the region – increasingly want their voices to be heard. And they see journalism as offering women opportunities for creativity, in addition to expression.

Akansha Srivastava, 21, from Lucknow in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, is among the young women in our program who plans to be a broadcast journalist. Specifically, she hopes to join a business news channel as a producer. Akansha says that as a woman, journalism gives her a voice and allows her to speak.

She has demonstrated this in the morning news meetings we hold to get the students into the rhythm of working in a real newsroom. During these meetings at the start of the school year, Akansha used to be one of the quiet ones. Now, she argues her point of view well. Even when I – the editor – shoot down one of her headlines, she continues to lobby her view.

Gargi Singh is among the women students who had a tough time deciding whether to take a post-graduate journalism course. The 24-year-old from Chandigarh in Punjab came from an information-technology and computer-science background. “IT work in India is very clerical,” she says. “I am not interested in maintenance of software.” Gargi sees journalism as a “way to create something new.”

Fresh from three years of studying business economics at an all-girls college in Delhi, Vishaka Saxena, 20, admits that her parents’ idea of her future career didn’t mesh with what she had in mind. “Basically, I was looking for creativity.”

It took quite a bit of convincing at home for Vishaka to abandon MBA plans and switch to journalism. “I come prepared. I pick up the newspaper every morning and I don't let my dad read it,” says Vishaka, who also has begun carrying a guitar to school.

Recently, Akansha asked, “By joining media, do we have to abandon our family life?”

Great question. This is an issue many women, not just in traditional and conservative India, might ask themselves before jumping into the hurly-burly of journalism. However, judging from the number of women who are interested in careers in media, these are workplace hurdles they are ready and willing to overcome.