TV is still a tough slog for older women

Here’s a story you’ll never see covered on TV news: TV news is unfair territory for women.

A couple of stories in the news this week provide testimonials to the fact.

First, ESPN reporter Kris Budden writes on her blog that she had to hide her pregnancy when working for a local Fox sports outfit. She wasn’t told to. She just felt she had to.

Here’s my reasoning behind it. In tv, especially as a woman in sports, you feel that you have to be pretty, skinny, best-dressed, ageless. Yes, I know my job is so much more than that, but you do feel pressure to look a certain way.

When you are pregnant, you feel anything but those qualities. At least I did. I was not one of those women who have a certain “glow” about them. I called that sweat. I also felt like there was a certain perception about female sideline reporters.

I thought that if people knew I was a mom, the viewers would look at me differently. They would look at me like…. like I did. Like I was old.

Old. That’s death for women in TV and not since former TV news anchor Christine Craft was fired from her job because a focus group said she was “too old, too unattractive and not deferential to men,” has there been any real substantive discussion about the reality of TV for women.

It died with the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision not to hear her case after a lower court overturned a jury award to her. Twice.

So people like Budden and Boston TV anchor Heather Unruh — that is, women — have to put up with the realities of television.

Unruh abruptly resigned from Boston’s WCVB — once considered the finest local TV news operation in the nation — last October after her role at the station was diminished.

Last month, she told an interviewer that “women are ‘encouraged’ to dress more provocatively than I feel is appropriate for delivering news.”

Television women around the country provided a collective, knowing nod.

The Boston Globe reports today that another woman in the business locally told it she and other women need to wear “tighter, smaller, shorter, more revealing clothes.”

She didn’t want her name used, the Globe said, because she didn’t want to lose her job.

But she did provide one little TV secret.

“What you don’t see on TV is that many times women have clothespins in the back to make [their clothes] tighter,” she said.

But off the record, current and former female broadcasters in Boston tell stories about wardrobe consultants hired by station management pushing clothing that some on-air talent don’t want to wear; women crying in the makeup room because they feel pressured to dress a certain way; a modestly dressed anchor being asked to dress like a sexier new colleague who wore her skirts short and her tops unbuttoned.

One former local on-air personality told the Globe she was once called into her news director’s office and told the blazer she had worn the day before wasn’t shapely enough. “He said it was ‘too boxy,’ ” she said.

The journalist said she shot back, letting him know his critique was inappropriate and offensive but didn’t report the incident.

“Honestly, I didn’t feel the culture would support me complaining, so I didn’t go beyond him,” she said.

“Until we have women in the position to hire, you will get men who want to hire women they couldn’t get dates with in high school,” said Andrea Kremerm who’s left the business and now teaches a course on interviewing at Boston University.

As for Buddin, she says she now realizes she was “stupid and naive” for hiding her pregnancy from viewers.

To all the other women in my industry that want or are about to start a family: don’t hold off on it because you’re afraid of how it will affect your career. I can tell you now, it doesn’t matter.

The majority of viewers and bosses in this industry will not judge you based on your age and the number of children you have. And don’t concern yourself with the ones that do. They don’t hold a cup or tea in comparison to the love you’ll have for your family.