We are back with another PhD Insight. This time, we sat down with Dr. Anne Kroon, who defended her dissertation in September. Read on if you want to learn more about her research and her experiences as a PhD student.
What was your academic background before doing a PhD?
I first studied journalism, but then I got more interested in media content and effects, so I did the communication science Bachelor at the UvA. Afterwards, I did the Master in Corporate Communication, because I felt that I already knew quite a bit about journalism and wanted to learn more about the corporate influence on the news agenda. When I was writing my Master thesis, I realized that I really enjoyed it and that was the first time I thought about doing a PhD.
This means that you didn’t do a Research Master before your PhD, would you say it made it more difficult? What advise can you give those, who are doing a one year Master and consider a PhD?
I was required to obtain 30 credits in method courses from the Research Master before actually starting my PhD and I took quite some method courses during my PhD. What I liked was that when you do research and come across a certain problem you can take a course to solve it. This also gives you more motivation for the course. But I would say that you definitely need a certain foundation of methodological knowledge before starting your PhD.
What did you enjoy most about your PhD?
I really liked it in general. What I enjoyed most was that we were a big group of PhD students who started around the same time, so I never felt isolated or alone and we all motivated each other. I also learned a lot from my fellow PhD students through side projects or just trying out new things together. We really helped each other out, because sometimes it can be a bit easier to ask another PhD student for help in methods or statistics than your supervisor.
Was there any event you would consider a personal highlight?
That is tricky, there was a lot. I think in terms of event I really liked ICA Japan, because I always wanted to go there and then I had the opportunity to go, which was really cool. I think this is probably one of the best things about this job: You get to go to so many countries and present your work in front of an international audience. When I first got accepted to ICA Seattle, I couldn’t believe I would go to the US for my work!
You are currently an Assistant Professor at the UvA. Do you enjoy teaching?
I really enjoy interacting with students and for me, teaching forces me to keep my knowledge up to date so I can answer my students’ questions accurately. They often ask really difficult questions and this keeps me awake. I really don’t like the grading part though, as it can be a lot and I find it quite boring. But overall I like teaching and I especially like the combination of research and teaching, because you can only focus so much on one task a day and then it is good that you can switch to something different like grading papers or preparing classes.
Let’s talk about your dissertation. Can you tell us what it is about?
It’s about images and stereotypes of older workers, which is especially relevant in our time, because we have an aging society. We see that the group of older workers, even though they have a lot of experience and knowledge, has a lot of trouble to find work. When someone who is over 60 gets unemployed, he or she only has a 3% chance of finding a fulltime position. I wanted to find out which role the media plays in the process of shaping stereotypes about older workers.
How did you approach this problem?
I conducted a content analysis on how organizations and the news media communicate about the topic. There, I specifically analysed which frames and stereotypes were used to describe older workers. Then, I measured in an experiment how this affected the way how people think about older workers. I also looked at effects on the aggregate level and analysed whether the number of age discrimination claims can be predicted by media coverage about older workers.
What would you say are the most important findings?
It became apparent that positive and negative stereotypes about older workers exist in both organizational and news media content. An example of a positive media stereotype would be that older workers are stable and reliable co-workers. An example of a negative media stereotype is that older workers are not capable of working with new technology. It appears that journalists are concerned about maintaining a balance in their news stories. But we can see that the negative stereotypes have much stronger effect on the perceptions about older workers both on the individual and on the aggregate level. This means that we have to be careful when talking about this group, because the effects of the negative media stereotypes outweigh the positive.
What are you currently doing and what do you want to do in the future?
I want to keep doing research here at the UvA. I find it a really inspiring environment and I really like that it is possible to choose your area of interest in this job. Currently, I am setting up my own research line which follows up on my dissertation, but this time also with a focus on other vulnerable groups in the labour market, for example immigrants or women. I want to see what role the media plays for these groups and what kind of content characteristics can explain whether we develop stereotypes or not.
About the research
Stereotypes about older workers have been shown to negatively affect managers’ and colleagues’ ability to make fair and just decisions regarding older workers, with detrimental consequences for individual careers, organisations’ competitive advantage and society at large. The aim of the current dissertation is to provide an in-depth understanding of the media’s role in reinforcing beliefs of older workers and trace its consequences for individual and organisational outcomes.
About the author
Anne Kroon studied Journalism at the University of Applied Science Utrecht and Communication Science at the University of Amsterdam. She wrote her dissertation on the role of media in shaping images of older employees. Currently, she works as an assistant professor at the Corporate Communication group of the Amsterdam School of Communication Research (ASCoR). In her current research she focuses on the relationship between media images and stereotypes about vulnerable groups in the labor market, such as immigrants, older workers and women.