As the decade came to a close, cisgender women, non-binary and transgender journalists continued to face unequal pay, barriers to career advancement and harassment in the workplace, according to the results of J-Source’s Gender Diversity in Canadian Journalism Project.

Conducted by reporting fellow Sabrina Wilkinson, the survey offers a contemporary snapshot of conditions for cisgender women, non-binary and transgender journalists working in Canada. This project was funded at arm’s length by CWA Canada.

“Thirty-one per cent of surveyed journalists said they had experienced gender discrimination from an employer multiple times,” reports Wilkinson. “The journalists surveyed made clear: gender equity remains an issue in Canadian journalism.”

The survey responses confirm a widely understood but poorly documented problem – that transgender and gender-nonconforming journalists experienced “different and heightened challenges” from cisgender women.

Among the key findings of the project:

  • Forty-two per cent of surveyed cisgender women, transgender and non-binary journalists don’t think they are paid the same as cisgender men conducting the same work. 
  • Thirty-one per cent of respondents said they had experienced gender discrimination from an employer multiple times. 
  • Seventeen per cent of respondents said they had experienced sexual misconduct by a source multiple times; 13 per cent had experienced sexual misconduct from a colleague multiple times; and seven per cent say they experienced sexual misconduct from an employer multiple times.

“Journalists of colour involved in this project shared the particular difficulties they face in the Canadian news industry,” writes Wilkinson, “which are often augmented by their gender. ‘It compounds that I’m a female and a person of colour,’ an interviewed daily news reporter said. These problems are further exacerbated when there is a disproportionately low number of racialized workers in the newsroom, a problem that many journalists identified, especially with respect to Black and Indigenous reporters.”

While almost 200 journalists participated, 400 newsrooms were provided with the survey; only five responded. As a result, the survey, which was distributed by newsletter mailing list and social media, relies on the voluntary participation of individuals, a longstanding condition in a media industry that does not offer a transparent accounting of its newsrooms’ composition.

“It’s hard not to be dejected by the lack of response,” write Ryerson journalism professors Asmaa Malik and Sonya Fatah, J-Source editor-in-chief, both co-researchers on a new project aiming to document newsroom composition through analysis of self-identification in columnists’ published work.

“One possibility is newsrooms are overworked and understaffed and don’t have the time or resources to respond to ancillary requests like surveys. The other possibility is that news organizations don’t see the value in participating or willfully reject the opportunity to do so.”

As Megan Jones, senior editor at Reader’s Digest, notes: “When we can’t point to where trans journalists are, we’re left only to note where they aren’t. “

J-Source thanks Tristan and D of the Gender Variant Working Group and The 519 for the time they took to provide thoughtful feedback and review during the development of the survey. All final editorial decisions were made by J-Source.

On Jan. 22 between 11:30 a.m and 12:30 p.m. ET, J-Source will be hosting a Twitter chat with Wilkinson at #JGenderProject to answer questions and discuss the results of the report. 

About the J-Source Gender Diversity Report

In fall 2018, J-Source distributed a survey on social media and through its newsletter to women, transgender and non-binary journalists in Canada. This survey asked questions about how these individuals experience their work on the basis of their gender, and how they would like to see Canadian journalism improved. 

One hundred and ninety-two journalists responded, although not all participants answered every question. 

J-Source e-mailed a second survey directly to 400 Canadian news outlets. This questionnaire asked organizations to submit information about the policies and procedures they have in place to deal with gender discrimination and sexual misconduct. J-Source followed-up on the survey three times over a three-month period. 

Only five news outlets responded, too few for this article to include. Sixteen journalists and editors were interviewed for this publication. Interviewees completed the survey and spoke on the condition of anonymity, unless they specifically gave consent or permission to be identified.

Read more:

For more information about the Gender Diversity in Canadian Journalism Project, contact J-Source managing editor Steph Wechsler at