The role of women in media and gender inequality in the workplace were the dominant topics of discussion at the National Press Club on Monday night.
At “Closing Journalism’s Gender Gap: A Forum on Women and Leadership," an event co-hosted by Poynter, leading women in journalism came together to tackle head-on the problems facing women in their field. Participants included Carolyn Ryan, the Washington bureau chief of The New York Times; Susan Goldberg, editor in chief of National Geographic; Rachel Smolkin, Politico's managing editor for news; Madhulika Sikka, executive editor of NPR News; Anders Gyllenhaal, McClatchy's vice president for news; and Jill Geisler, head of Poynter’s leadership and management programs.
Among the top issues discussed was the gender pay gap, and in particular, women's reluctance to demand a raise or ask for a promotion.
Goldberg said that she has noticed an “astounding difference” in the way men and women approach money. Ryan said that while “seven to 10 people will knock on my door to tell me they need a raise," in her last four jobs, only one of them was a woman.
"When we leave this room we kind of banish bashfulness," she told the audience.
The idea that men are dominant in media is supported by studies of the field, and the discussion around the issue has grown lately. This has perhaps been highlighted by the recent ouster of New York Times executive editor Jill Abramson. A recent study of 10 top U.S. newspapers found that of 22 columnists, only six were female. Additionally, of the average 11-person editorial board, only four members are typically women. Poynter noted that of the 25 largest U.S. newspapers, only four have a top female editor. A report from April also showed that women CEOs are more likely to be fired than their male counterparts.
The advice given to women is to be more aggressive and show more confidence, even though these characteristics are often later described as "bossy" or "pushy." Goldberg, referring to Sheryl Sandberg's lesson to "lean in," added, "many of us have spent 30 years leaning in so far we fell on our face.”
More recent examples of sexism in the media also made their way into conversation at the event. As Politico's Smolkin put it, for anyone who wants to argue that there is no media gender gap, “I would refer to you Matt Lauer’s interview with Mary Barra."
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