Can You Hear Me Now? Women Journos Speak Up On Take The Lead Day
Who tells the story writes history. And if women and other under-represented groups are not telling the stories, what is the cost of their missing voices?
Addressing the need to amplify the voices of women will be members of a panel and workshop in New York’s Powertopia Symposium on Take The Lead Day November 14.
“Employ Every Medium: Find Your Voice, Use Your Voice” features top journalists and media experts engaging in a conversation with Gloria Feldt, Take The Lead president and co-founder at the Helen Mills Event Space & Theater.
The inequities of women in media and the under-representation of women, particularly women of color, have a deep legacy. According to the 2017 American Society of News Editors Newsroom Diversity Census, women are not represented equally to men in traditional media newsrooms, but have better representation in online organizations.
“Women made up more than a third of newsroom employees overall (39.1 percent in 2017 compared to 38.7 percent in 2016), with a higher number employed at online-only websites than at newspapers. Women comprised 38.9 percent of daily newspaper employees in this year’s survey (compared to 38.1 percent in 2016) and 47.8 percent of online-only news organization employees (compared to 47.6 percent in 2016).”
“That kind of equity makes a difference. Having a critical mass of women decision-makers, rather than a token presence, allows ideas to bubble up and voices to be heard in new ways. This is, of course, true for racial diversity, too,” Margaret Sullivan writes in Washington Post.
Recent allegations of sexual assaults by Mark Halperin on women journalists as well as sexual harassment by Michael Oreskes, as well as earlier accounts about Bill O’Reilly and Roger Ailes may make headlines, but the lack of parity for women in media remains.
Sullilvan writes, “Now, a few powerful men have been shamed or demoted, but the underlying issues of gender inequality and power dynamics live on. In all kinds of insidious ways, women remain underrepresented in media, and their voices remain muted.”
Addressing the need for women’s voices to be heard in media and beyond at the Powertopia New York Symposium is Pulitzer-Prize nominated New York Times journalist Sarah Maslin Nir who will moderate the panel. The author of the investigative series, “Unvarnished,” Maslin Nir worked more than one year reporting on New York City’s nail salon industry, exposing the exploitative labor practices and health issues manicurists face.
Also speaking on the panel on Take The Lead Day is Natasha S. Alford, journalist and Deputy Editor of TheGrio.com. She hosts the original web series “True Story with Natasha Alford,” has also been a contributor to Salon.com, Sirius XM’s “Sway In the Morning,” WDKX and WBEZ radio.
Alford’s 2015 TEDx talk, “The Courage to Report,” chronicled her news reporting experience in the era of digital media and #BlackLivesMatter. She is a winner of the CBS Meredith-Cronkite Fellowship and a member of the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ), as well as the National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ).
Her reports “Suspended Justice: Breaking the School-to-Prison Pipeline” (2016) and “True Story: A Second Chance” (2017) both won Telly Awards for video. A graduate of Harvard University and Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism, Alford is a 2017 Harvard College Women’s Center “Rising Leader.”
Before her career in journalism, Natasha worked at the investment management firm Bridgewater Associates, LP, eventually leaving to become a Teach For America corps member. She also was a middle school English teacher, and later working in the arena of education policy.
Michelle Herrera Mulligan is a panelist as well. She is an author, leader with The OpEd Project, writer and editor with 20 years of experience. Her essays and articles have reached more than 1 million people online and in print, in publications ranging from The New York Times magazine to Elle.com.
She was the founding editor in chief of Cosmo For Latinas magazine, and built a community that consistently reached 2-3 million readers per month online and more than 100,000 on the newsstand. A frequent college speaker and writing coach, she says she feels especially inspired to work on projects focused creating a vision, owning one’s voice, and building a dream, which she spoke about at a TEDX conference hosted at Barnard College,“Dream Wild.”
The OpEd Project founder and CEO Katie Orenstein will also speak on the panel on voice. Orenstein, who founded The OpEd Project in 2008, writes and speaks frequently about the intersection of media and mythology.
Orenstein has contributed to the op-ed pages of the New York Times, Washington Post and Miami Herald. She has lectured at Stanford University and appeared on ABC TV World News, Good Morning America, MSNBC, CNN and NPR. She recently presented at the Obama Foundation convening in Chicago.
A graduate of Harvard (BA) and Columbia (MA) universities, she is the author of Little Red Riding Hood Uncloaked: Sex, Morality and the Evolution of a Fairy Tale. Orenstein has worked around the world and particularly in Haiti, where she reported, consulted with the United Nations, and worked with a team of human rights lawyers to assist victims of military and paramilitary violence in seeking justice. She is a recipient of The Diana P Scott Integrity in Action Award, and a fellowship from Echoing Green, which selected The OpEd Project as one of the most innovative social enterprises worldwide, out of 1,500 applicants.
The Powertopia panel is needed at a time when more women’s voices in the media appear urgent as new allegations of sexual harassment emerge.
“Ours is an industry, like so many others, dominated by white men at the top; they have made the decisions about what to cover and how, and they still do. The pervasiveness of these power imbalances and the way they affect how even this story itself is being told are instructive,”
Rebecca Traister writes in The Cut.
The Powertopia panel will address strategies to finding and using your voice, and highlights Leadership Power Tool # 8, “Employ Every Medium.” Feldt writes, “Use personal, social, and traditional media every step of the way. Use the medium of your own voice. And think of each of the power tools as a medium to be pressed into the service of your ‘Power-To.’”
That mission was echoed at the recent Journalism & Women Symposium Conference and Mentoring Project in Hot Springs, Ark., where more than 200 women journalists gathered from around the world to “support the professional empowerment and personal growth of women in journalism and work toward a more accurate portrayal of the whole society,” according to the group’s mission statement.
Nikole Hannah-Jones, writer for the New York Times Magazine and founder of the Ida B. Wells Society, was the main keynote speaker.
“The first time I saw my byline I was hooked,” Hannah-Jones says.
That experience was in high school in Waterloo, Iowa when she was and writing for her school newspaper.
“I knew this was my calling,” says Hannah-Jones, who was recently awarded a MacArthur Foundation Fellows Award, also known as the “Genius Grant.” She adds, “Even though my guidance counselor only saw a black kid from the wrong side of town.”
Hannah-Jones says the Ida B. Wells Society she founded in 2016 has 700 members in its first year of existence with the mission is to train investigative reporters of color.
“I founded the society because I was tired of all the excuses. So I stopped waiting for other people to do something about it,” Hannah-Jones says. “The lack of journalists of color is not a lack of desire, it’s a lack of access.”
The numbers back that up.
“Of all newsroom leaders, 13.4 percent were minorities (compared to 13 percent in 2016),” according to the American Society of News Editors 2017 Newsroom Diversity Census.
A graduate of the University of Notre Dame and graduate school at University of North Carolina, Hannah-Jones says, “I come from a family of sharecroppers and to be in a place where I can do something like this is completely unexpected.”
Working two jobs until she was 30, Hannah-Jones was a reporter for The News & Observer in Charlotte, The Oregonian and then ProPublica, where she wrote on segregation in schools.
“I wanted to tell stories about people like me. It is such a privilege every day to do this work. Being a journalist is my mission,” says Hannah-Jones, who has been writing for the New York Times since 2015.
“If you allow journalists to do the work they are passionate about, it is amazing what they can do,” Hannah-Jones says. “You can do it without compromise and with your sense of self.”
Learn more about how you can work toward gender parity and fairness in leadership at Take The Lead Day November 14, a global day of action for leadership parity. Register for an event or host your own. Sign up and register here.