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Where Are the Women?
Why we need more female newsroom leaders

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Journalism is no different than any other profession in that it’s hard for women and hard for working moms to thread the needle of being there for their family and finding the support in their job to do that. Structural things like no institutional daycare, et cetera. Those things bedevil our industry as much as any other. At Mother Jones, we don’t have on-site daycare. But we do offer very generous family leave and we have a lot of tolerance and structures in place that help parents take leave if they need it. They can work from home and they can do all kinds of things. We’re better than most. I think everybody could be doing better, and some of that in my estimation would need a more societal, governmental overhaul. My advice to women who want to lead in journalism is to first find the specific subset of what you love to do and that makes you thrive and happy, and find a place where you are supported by your employers. It doesn’t just have to be women mentoring other women at all, but you need to find a place where it’s a good atmosphere. Part of that is that women are treated fairly and encouraged to take leadership roles, encouraged to speak up. Not pushed to the sidelines. And encouraged to try different things. I think another thing that happens in our industry is that women are pigeonholed into writing and editing family-focused stuff or memoir-focused stuff. That’s all great, but it shouldn’t be that they’re pigeonholed and that’s what they should be doing. I think it’s also if you’re in a news organization that you’re not just writing about family issues or women’s issues, that you get to dabble, and figure out what you want to do. Maybe that’s being a foreign correspondent and maybe it’s working on the political desk. But that opportunity is there for you. I never had a female boss. I certainly work with great women who are peers, and I would say at Mother Jones with Monika [Bauerlein] and I working as co-editors, we sort of joke, it’s a fabulous way to mentor each other. When Monika and I got this job we would joke that we were the only female editors of “thought leader” magazines, which is this silly category, that had really ever, except, Tina Brown twice and Deirdre English who had been the editor of Mother Jones before. There were just not that many women leaders of thought leader magazines. The whole landscape has changed and one of those changes is that there are a lot more women running news organizations of all different kinds. It’s really encouraging, just what I’ve seen in the past 10 years. I’m not even sure what the stereotype has been, but there are women news organization leaders out there, who are very super hierarchical and rule with an iron fist, and there are some who do things differently, just as there are for men. But at least, I think we’re starting to see enough women out there so that there’s not just one model, or it’s not such a rarity to encounter that, that you think every other female boss is going to be just like the one you happened to have.

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