Say My Name: Why Acknowledging Successful Women Directly Matters
What’s in a name?For some, not much. After all, it certainly was easy for the Chicago Tribune to erase Olympic medalist Corey Cogdell’s name in their tweet about her accomplishment:“Wife of a Bears’ lineman wins a bronze medal today in Rio Olympics.“Whew, that caused a firestorm of people ranting about her being defined by her husband. But shouldn’t she be used to it by now?I mean, it’s taken me decades, but I get it. When I started my career as a reporter at the City News Bureau of Chicago, people called me “Bob’s little girl.” Made sense. I was the daughter of Chicago Daily News editor and columnist Robert G. Schultz.I joined the staff of the Chicago Sun-Times, where I became engaged to a Pulitzer-nominated writer Zay N. Smith, and I was always asked, “Aren’t you Norty’s wife?”(Yes, I was nominated for a Pulitzer too — but, as many have told me, I didn’t get it.)As a journalist of more than a decade, I became editor and associate publisher of Chicago Parent magazine, where for an unprecedented three years in a row, we were recognized as the country’s top regional parenting magazine by the Missouri School of Journalism.I wrote often in my column about my two boys, who are now amazing young men. So, it was natural that many people introduced me as “Bryant and Zach’s mom.”Yes, I’ve run a magazine, a few newspapers, worked in government, the foundation world, taught at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, Roosevelt University and Columbia College Chicago. I’m the founding president of the Association for Women Journalists Chicago chapter and served as the president of the national organization JAWS, Journalism and Women’s Symposium.I’m proud of those accomplishments. They represented a lot of hard work and uphill battles to be heard by the men above me. Sometimes, I was the only woman in the room, and often I was asked to speak for my entire gender.Crediting successful women by name mattersThese days, I run a nonprofit, where we do something no one else in the world does: We teach journalists and people who work at nonprofits how to tell better stories and then we bring the two groups together. I inherited this job from the founder, Thom Clark, and I’m proud to be the next chapter in this organization’s legacy.It’s not an easy time for nonprofits and it’s been true for us since I took over three years ago. But we’ve done a lot. We have a new name, Public Narrative, because that’s what we are working to change. We’ve expanded our journalism work to a national audience, increasing the number trained by more than 46 percent. And we’ve increased local classes, programs and events by more than 110 percent.But name changes are slow, so many people still call us Community Media Workshop and these days, people often introduce me this way: “Oh, she’s the new Thom.”Does it bother me? Yes, it does.Because when people ask me what’s in a name, my answer is simple, “Respect and everything that goes with it.”This column originally ran on Public Narrative.