Several female leaders in journalism joined a lively panel discussion Wednesday morning to highlight the struggle of women in the newsroom and discuss the evolving intersection of gender issues and working.
More than 100 editors, educators and other invited guests packed into a ballroom at the Hyatt Regency Chicago to hear the panel discussion: Women at the Top—Moving the Conversation Forward, which was part of the American Society of News Editors and the Associated Press Media Editors’ annual joint conference. The discussion gave light to the many challenges women still face in newsrooms and what is being done to make progress in those areas.
“We are here to shed some light on consequences and look for solutions,” said Geneva Overholser, former director of the USC Annenberg School of Journalism, who moderated the discussion.
A major topic of conversation was the unnecessary distinction between journalists and woman journalists.
“I don’t walk into the office every morning and think I am a Hispanic female editor,” said Aminda Marques Gonzalez, executive editor of The Miami Herald. “We tire of this topic because we want to be judged on our journalism and not our femininity.”
In the wake of Jill Abramson’s controversial termination as executive editor at the New York Times, this fixation on female stereotyping often leads to unfair personality standards held against women in the workplace, said Kathleen Davis, leadership editor at fastcompany.com.
There’s an “unconscious double standard we have about how women are supposed to act,” Davis said.
“We’ve heard: you’re too blunt; you’re too abrasive,” Gonzalez said, offering an example of how women are held to a different standard, whereas men like Steve Jobs who may have had some of the same qualities and were “notoriously bad bosses…have been celebrated,” Davis said.
There’s “the thought that women are supposed to be soft and they’re not good leadership material,” said Kathleen Carroll, senior vice president and executive editor of the Associated Press.
“But once you’re there, everyone wants you to be mommy,” Overholser said later in the conversation.
Surviving in a newsroom today requires self-confidence and self-promotion, panelists and attendees said. Audience member Charlotte Hall, former editor of the Orlando Sentinel and Newsweek Magazine said young women going into journalism today “have to make their own brand and market [themselves].”
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