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Women leading Canadian media companies see opportunities opening

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Linda Solomon, journalist turned entrepreneur, accepting Canadian Journalism Foundation award with Robert Lewis, CJF's chair and former editor-in-chief of Maclean's Magazine.

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. 

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