On The Record: Why 50 Women Can Change The World In Journalism Works
Journalists know the importance of a good quote. And all are careful about getting it right.
Daniela Altimari, statehouse reporter for the Hartford Courant, made sure her own quote was accurate in defining the impact of Take The Lead’s recent 50 Women Can Change The World in Journalism on her own career.
“This program was life-changing and I wish every woman had the chance to do it!” Altimari says.
Gearing up for the five-year celebration of Take The Lead’s programs and events, it’s critical to look at measurable outcomes and testimonials. This is why Take The Lead’s programs supporting the mission deserve a high five of support at the Fifth Anniversary Summer Silent Auction July 25.
The 50 Women Can Change The World in Journalism program, sponsored by the Ford Foundation and the Democracy Fund, featured a cohort of women in media organizations from digital to broadcast, print and legacy sites, as well as academics in journalism and freelance journalists.
Participants were columnists, reporters, editors and contributors to sites from the New York Times, Washington Post, CNN, Los Angeles Times, Entrepreneur, Vice Media, PBS, NPR, Politicoand many more outlets reported new actions and results.
“The biggest ‘get’ since #50Women is a new journalism project will likely fund one of my ideas and the result will be a report and data intended to have industry impact,” says Carla Murphy, a social justice journalist. “What’s most remarkable is that I didn’t intentionally pitch this idea. I embraced controversy at a meeting of journalists, shared my thoughts and a funder was present.”
It is a precarious time for women journalists, when they are at times exalted to higher visibility slots, but also continually falling behind in pay as well as leadership roles.
The highlighting of Julie K. Brown’s exhaustive work at the Miami Herald to bring Jeffrey Epstein to justice, and the promotion of Norah O’Donnell as anchor at “CBS Evening News” are just two examples of recent high profile success for journalists.
Yet parity is not the norm.
American Society of News Editors reports that in 2018, women were 41.7 percent of newsroom employees and 41.8 percent of managers at digital and legacy journalism of organizations. In 2018, people of color comprised 22.6 percent of employees reported by all newsrooms in the survey, compared to 16.5 percent in 2017.
A new study from Northeastern University shows, “A preliminary byline analysis performed by Storybench’s Election Coverage Tracker showed that only 32.3 percent of the online news stories were written by women over a recent six-week span of election coverage.”
Northeastern News reports, “A 2015 study of the 12 largest newspapers in the U.S. showed that female reporters quote women 42 percent of the time in their stories, while male journalists quote women at a rate of 28 percent.”
Such under-representation of women in newsrooms and also in content, serves as a motivation for the 50 Women Can Change The World in Journalism cohort. In-person workshops, as well as virtual coaching and mentorship for the 50 journalists made a difference for many.
“This program really changed my life. I came into it at a time when I was questioning the impact I was having in my workplace. This program showed me that I was on the right track, and helped me clarify where that track could take me,” says Jeanette Woods, Story and Talent Curator at the Association of Independents in Radio.
Esther Kaplan, editor-in-chief of Type Investigations, says the most important aspect of the program was “losing a sense of isolation—hearing so many echoes of my own struggles from others and vice versa.”
That is because there are fewer women in newsrooms, and fewer women in management, with only three out of the top 25 U.S. newspapers headed by women.
According to the Women’s Media Center, “Status of Women in U.S. Media Report 2019,”“Women at the four most widely circulated U.S.-based newspapers penned an average of 15 percent of guest-writer op-eds on international issues during 1996, 2006 and 2016, according to the Foreign Policy Institute.” Additionally, the report continues, “Editors of the nation’s 135 most widely distributed newspapers are overwhelmingly male and White, according to the Columbia Journalism Review.”
The report continues, “Pay gaps persist along gender lines in newsrooms at the Associated Press, Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle, The Wall Street Journaland The Washington Post, with men earning substantially more than women.”
According to the Washington Post, a 2016 study shows that “Dow Jones pay men more than women in jobs of similar tenure. Male staffers with up to five years of experience, for example, earn an average of 13.5 percent more than female staffers at the same level — and even slightly more than the category of women who’ve been on the job for twice as long. The Independent Association of Publishers’ Employees analysis found that, on average, full-time women at Dow Jones properties make about 87 cents for every dollar paid to full-time men. This includes everyone employed by Dow Jones who’s represented by the union — a group of about 1,400 across North America, including writers, copy editors and customer service representatives.”
According to the Poynter Institute, “The journalism industry is notoriously inconsistent with pay, and women often bear the costs of this disparity. Job offers are often based on salary history, and there’s little transparency around pay within news organizations. Experts say pay transparency is key to reducing the wage gap.”
Trainers leading the cohort through sessions centered on the 9 Leadership Power Tools created by Gloria Feldt, co-founder and president of Take The Lead, were Patricia Jerido, Take the Lead Leadership Ambassador, Principal Consultant at Leadership Matters Consulting, trained M.S.W. social worker with 25 years experience in social justice work, as well as program officer for Open Society Foundations and the Ms. Foundation for Women; and Fara Warner, Take The Lead Leadership Ambassador, co-founder of “A Picture’s Worth,”and former vice president of custom content at Dow Jones & Co., former editorial director at AOL’s Business, Finance and Technology unit and editorial director of international special editions at Newsweek/DailyBeast.
Murphy writes in Medium, “The #50WomenCan program teaches 9 Power Tools, each of which are chances to sit still with yourself and reflect deeply, a.k.a.,The Work. It’s because of Power Tool #2, Define Your Own Terms (i.e., set the agenda before others do), that I found myself replaying the many race, gender and class biases that I experienced in the industry as a cub reporter. How could I reframe those incidents as deep wells of information from which to draw Power, instead of keeping them in the basement as storage jars of anger, disappointment or resignation?”
In another Medium post on her 50 Women Can Change The World in Journalism experience, Murphy writes, “What surprised me most, then and now, was the program’s emphasis on knowing your personal history because it is your source of power and therefore, key to leading within your industry…Turns out, I had the building blocks of my story all along, and #50WomenCan helped me to actualize it. I have a new Web site , now, which I’m still tweaking.”
Murphy continues, “And it seems counter-intuitive, but it takes effort to know your own story. It took me 4 months, 2 coaching calls, 2 group video chats, an intense 12-question leadership plan, brainstorming sessions and feedback from my #50WomenCan cohort to come up with mine. Talking aloud to myself while riding the train became a regular thing.”
She adds, “Your personal story is the source of your power. As Gloria Feldt, the program’s founder, might say, never leave your power on the table.”