The Latest Crisis: Not Enough Black Women Meteorologists
Print Friendly and PDF

Because the weather is different for blacks than it is for whites, it’s crucial to have more black women meteorologists on TV in order that their lived experience can influence whether or not it’s going to rain tomorrow. Or something. (Does humidity affect hairdos?)

From the Washington Post news section:

These Black women are changing TV weather, a field long dominated by White men

By Amudalat Ajasa
Updated February 6, 2023

For decades, broadcast meteorology has been dominated by White men—leaving out women, and particularly women of color. Of the hundreds of chief meteorologists at news stations across the country, few are Black women.

Now, Black women are fighting to climb the ladder and claim top meteorology roles. For Veronica Johnson, her journey took nearly 30 years.

When it was time for Johnson to decide what she wanted to do with her life, she chose to be a broadcast meteorologist.

The weatherperson you see on TV news may or may not have some academic training in meteorology. For example, of two veteran local news weathermen in the lucrative (if unchallenging) L.A. market, Dallas Raines has a B.S. in meteorology, attained a meteorologist certification, and has taught classes in the subject, so he is considered a “broadcast meteorologist” competent to tweak standard forecasts. Fritz Coleman, in contrast, got his degree only in communications and became a funny DJ on the radio, so he is a “weather reporter,” not a meteorologist.

Stations seem to like to be able to boast that their weather guy is a meteorologist, not just a reader of government forecasts. But it’s not mandatory.

In general, the system seems to work well enough. TV news weather forecasts are pretty accurate these days, and the person on screen usually has a likable personality.

She loved weather, but she also wanted to see more people of color talking about science on television.

“Someone has to be the first,” Johnson said in a recent phone interview. “I’m still standing on the shoulders of the few that have come before me.”

In early December, Johnson was named the new chief meteorologist for WJLA (Channel 7), the ABC affiliate for the D.C. area.

But even as Black women like Johnson chip away at long-standing barriers, the path has been a challenge for those often hidden in the world of meteorology. And the data confirms what Black women in the industry have described: they are grossly underrepresented in meteorology—especially in television.

The American Meteorological Society (AMS) found that Black and African American meteorologists made up 2 percent of the entire membership in 2020, the last year it collected data. The ratio of Black men to women is 60 percent to 40 percent—indicating that Black women make up less than 1 percent of members. That data also includes the news industry. The National Association of Black Journalists says there are about 138 Black meteorologists in journalism across the United States. Of Black meteorologists, about 46 percent are women, according to Jason Frazer, NABJ’s weather and climate task force chair.

“While African Americans make up about 13.6% of the US population, they represent only about 5.5% of the Meteorologists you see on television,” Frazer, a meteorologist and co-host for Fox Weather First, wrote in an email. “That is significantly less than the number of Black TV Anchors and Reporters.”

If I’m reading the data right, blacks make up 2% of all meteorologists (many of whom have non-glamorous jobs predicting the weather in cubicles), but 5.5% of meteorologists you see on TV in the professions’ glamor jobs. So black meteorologists are 2.75 times more likely to get the best jobs in their field.

That sounds reasonable. The ideal TV weather person has both nerd skills and a big, pleasing personality. Americans seem to like watching intelligent black people on TV, both for reasons of pro-black racial bias, and because blacks tend to have more entertaining personalities. (The lady featured in the article seems to be lacking in the personality pizazz department.)

Apparently, about 2.5% of broadcast meteorologists are black women. If society made a big effort and doubled that figure, black women would still be only 1 out of 20 in the field, and likely still complaining about how lonely they feel without enough other black women broadcast meteorologists who know what high (or perhaps low) humidity does to their hairstyle.

Further, almost nobody recognizes that this kind of affirmative action for 3-digit IQ jobs like meteorologist doesn’t suddenly magically produce more blacks with 3-digit IQs, it just redistributes them from some other job, which then has even fewer.

[Comment at]

Print Friendly and PDF