Women are still under-represented in media companies across North America.
Worldwide, statistics show that it's still an uneven playing field. The 2011 Global Report on the Status of Women in the News Media, which examined over 500 companies in nearly 60 countries, found that men occupy the vast majority of the management jobs and news-gathering positions in most of the countries in the study.
In Canada, the playing field is more balanced, but it's far from perfect. In a sample of five newspapers, three television stations, and three radio stations, the report found that newsroom leadership is nearing parity, with over half in senior and middle management.
However, past this point the number women in leadership positions in media drop considerably, with 39 per cent in top management, and 26 per cent in governance.
Joanne Burghardt's experience as editor-in-chief at the Metroland Durham Region reflects these figures.
According to Burghardbt, most editors in Ontario's community newsrooms have consistently been women for the last 20 years. She noted that this is not the case at the publisher's table, which is still occupied mostly by men.
Margo Goodhand (pictured below), editor of the Winnipeg Free Press, believes there will be more women leading newsrooms in the near future.
The Winnipeg Free Press won the CJF excellence in journalism award two years ago, and Goodhand said it has set the bar in her newsroom ever since.
Goodhand is hopeful about the future for women in media and believes women will break through to the top levels of leadership and governance of media companies in the not so distant future.
"The 'critical mass' of women in journalism schools and newsrooms across the country will lead to an eventual breakthrough of women in the leadership ranks," she wrote in an email to the Vancouver Observer.
Alice Klein (pictured below) is co-founder, editor and CEO of Toronto's popular NOW Magazine.
Now was launched in 1981 as the city's alternative voice. Starting with five staff members, Klein and her partner, Michael Hollett, led the weekly to becoming a leading cultural and political voice in Toronto and across Canada.
It currently employs more than 100 people and hosts one of the city's most popular websites, the go-to site for events, arts and culture, as well as city and national politics. Klein is a powerful role model for young women interested in entrepreneurial journalism and media careers.
Canadian media companies: changing perceptions of leadership?
Goodhand credits online newsrooms with changing the perception of leadership itself.
"A ‘leader’ used to be a top-down kind of guy, authoritative and omniscient, working within a hierarchical system," she wrote. "Today’s more creative and collaborative workplaces require a different kind of leadership. One that favours both the men and women who work and think that way."
As a reporter at the Vancouver Observer, I can immediately relate to Goodhand's description. Beyond the fact that women are in charge here, I'm constantly communicating and collaborating on stories and projects with the entire team. Here's my managing editor Jenny Uechi's take on newsroom dynamics:
"Often stories are the product of not just one person, but a discussion between two or more people," she said. "And because different peoples' opinions are incorporated, the story tends to be more well-rounded and rich in perspectives."
The Vancouver Observer team in June 2012. Photo by Eva Chruscicka.
Another reason it matters to have women in charge in a newsroom might be obvious, but needs to be repeated: it matters whose stories are being told, and how.
Megan Kamerick TedX Talk: "Women should represent women in media" in video below.
A screening of MissRepresentation, a documentary about media portrayals of women, in October 2011 spurred the VO to start the Feminista blog. The young women writers of Feminista examine media portrayals of women and girls with a mix of humour and intelligence.
"Women are only 24 per cent of news subjects across all media. This is completely unacceptable given the fact that women make up 51 per cent of our population," said Amy Zucchero, campaign director of MissRepresenation, to the Vancouver Observer. "In order to truly shift the landscape for women and girls we need to start with media outlets-- we must shed a light on the issues of women's representation in the media and champion women by giving them a platform to share their perspectives and stories."
MissRepresentation trailer below
More women in charge means more kick ass journalism
In a liveblog about women in newsrooms at the 2012 Canadian Association of Journalists annual conference, Patricia Graham, vice-president digital at Pacific Newspaper Group emphasized that women have come a very long way in the field.
"I have a problem with the language that women have to choose to have a career or family, but this is something we fought for," she said. "My mother never had this choice. It is important that we have the right to choose."
Many women in media at all levels can relate to this sentiment, including the Vancouver Observer's Linda Solomon, a journalist turned entrepreneur.
Solomon started the Vancouver Observer in 2006 from her living room with 11 aspiring writers contributing content in exchange for mentoring and editorial input on their writing. There was no investor or big plan other than to create a platform that could showcase a wide swath of the city's best writers. The idea evolved into "arming writers with new tools, helping them to leverage multimedia forms and formats to meet the velocity of our interconnectedness with genuine participation," Solomon said.
"John Seigenthaler exemplified the ways in which reporters can really have impact as public servants," Solomon recalled during her acceptance speech at the CJF awards. "And he instilled in me the idea that good reporting and investigative journalism can help make a positive difference in peoples' lives."
Solomon has since followed through on her experiences as the owner, publisher, and editor-in-chief of an award-winning news organization. All this, and she is a mother of two.
"Now," she said, "our big idea is great journalism carried out courageously and with uncompromising integrity, arming the choir with the tools of change."
So, will the newsrooms of tomorrow will see more women at the very top?
I don't know the answer to that. I do know that women are already in charge of their own online newsrooms today, and that is likely to open doors for more women in the future.
And, please...let's not forget Arianna.