Reporters crowd around U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) (L) as she heads into weekly Senate Republican policy luncheon at the U.S. Captiol November 29, 2011 in Washington, D.C.
Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty

My advice for women in media


The Women’s Media Center just released its annual report — and it breaks down a wealth of scary yet important statistics on how women in journalism are represented across media platforms compared to their male colleagues. The numbers cast a bleak shadow on the future of journalism for aspiring newswomen.

Many of us from inside the field have experienced it firsthand: the media struggles with gender disparity in a big, bad way. In fact, when I was at the height of my success, I cut a deal with NBC that got me 14—yes, 14—times less than Joe was earning at the time. Although some of what led to my pay gap was the way that I communicated my value and brand (which I discuss in both Knowing Your Value and my new book Grow Your Value), at the core of my journey was an industry that undervalued women. Sadly, not much has changed.    

Women in newsrooms are vastly underrepresented. According to the Women’s Media Center report, women are on-camera 32% of the time in evening broadcast news. In print news, women report 37% of the stories. And on the Internet, women have 42% of the bylines.

This of course allows the gender pay gap to pervade media, just as it does in the broader workforce. In 2013, an Indiana University study reported that female journalists could expect to make 83% of what their male counterparts make — a gap that has hardly budged in the past 20 years! As a woman who works in television news and devotes most of her waking hours to the craft, the numbers — though unsurprising — are extremely disheartening.

But they are not insurmountable.

We can change the statistics. It can start with a small change from all of us: learning our professional value and communicating it effectively in the workplace. As Julie Burton, president of the Women’s Media Center, puts it: “We can do better. And we must. For democracy to function, people must get the whole story. Democracy itself is at stake.”

As women, believing in our value to the field of journalism is the first step in fixing its gender imbalance. It is vital that more women rise in the ranks. Women belong on editorial boards, in management roles at news networks and sitting at anchor desks as the day’s news unfolds. We should see their bylines in the best publications, and they should fearlessly — unapologetically — pursue the most important stories of our time.

Here’s my advice for women in media and for those who want to join us, much of which can be applied to knowing our value in the broader workplace, too.

Don’t apologize: You have probably done it already today. “I’m sorry. Is this a good time?” “I’m sorry. Can I ask you a question?” Stop lying. You are not sorry, and when you begin a conversation with “I’m sorry,” you immediately undermine yourself and alert the person that you are going to be asking for something they might not want to give. This is especially important in the media industry where employees need to speak with conviction and confidence.      

Learn to press reset:  Men are able to do this without a second thought. Joe can easily flip the switch at the end of an awkward interview and say, “Thanks so much for coming on. That was great!” Women tend to replay the bad interaction over and over and over again, and it leaves us walking into the next conversation one step behind.   

Know your brand: It is important to know your brand and what you bring to the table, but it is equally, if not more important, to be able to communicate your brand effectively and succinctly in 20 seconds or less. This is something that is very difficult for women to do, but practice doing it out loud so that when the time comes for a new job, raise, whatever, you will be prepared. You can also practice by entering the Grow Your Value competition!

Get comfortable with discomfort: Don’t worry about making everyone comfortable or being everyone’s friend. This is not your job, and when you are advocating for yourself, the goal is to make the people in the room feel uncomfortable. Command respect first, and friendship will follow.