Women filled a room and lit up Twitter at the National Press Club on Monday night to continue a discussion reignited by the recent firing of New York Times editor Jill Abramson:
Can the longstanding gender gap in journalism ever be closed?
Poynter and the press club’s journalism institute sponsored the Forum on Women and Leadership, and Poynter says the conversation doesn’t stop here. They’ll be soliciting and publishing essays on their website as part of the #push4parity essay project, and will launch fundraising for scholarships so that more women can attend leadership training at Poynter. You can read more about the event on Poynter.org.
Here are four good questions from audience members and answers from the panel.
Q: How do I go about getting a mentor or a sponsor?
Carolyn Ryan, Washington bureau chief and political editor for The New York Times: “You have to let it be known and go after it. Reach out and put yourself forward. Don’t be afraid to engage senior members of whatever organization you happen to work in. I am really struck by the reflex and conditioning that men seem to have when it comes to a moment like this … ‘I’m very deserving and I’m going to ask for what I deserve.’ I would suggest that even though everyone’s busy, you deserve a mentor, you deserve support. You deserve someone who’s invested in your career. So to the degree that when we leave this room we can kind of banish bashfulness, we will have done something.”
Q: I want to have a career and a family, in a profession where some companies don’t support that and don’t even have paid maternity leave. How can I manage this?
Rachel Smolkin, POLITICO’s managing editor for news: “I would caution against making decisions in your career because you think it might be hard as a mother … Try it and if it’s too hard, you can always readjust. You can always make an adjustment in your job if it’s not working.”
Q: I’m a young journalist working on issues in an area dominated by men. How can I show I have something to bring to the table?
Susan Goldberg, editor of National Geographic Magazine and News: “I don’t know that there’s anything to do other than just push through it. Keep writing those good stories and every day you come back and eventually they start to take you seriously. But the other thing is, when you get older, it’s easier.”
Q: How do we get more women editors in the newsroom?
Anders Gyllenhaal, vice president for news and Washington editor at the McClatchy Company: “There’s just no substitute for basic hard work … At my company, McClatchy Newspapers, out of 29 papers, 13 are run by women, about 49 percent. And you don’t get there by going out and trying to find women editors. You get there by building a newsroom a little at a time … This is a years-long thing. This is not something that can be changed because we realize we have a crisis now … It has to be a tradition and it has to be something you work really hard to achieve. There’s no other substitute.”