Small Steps to Make It As a Woman in Media

Women have struggled for decades to rise to the top of their field – and media is no exception.

Consider these facts:

    • Women make up anywhere from 61 to 85 percent of Public Relations jobs. Yet, the World PR Report finds that just 30 percent of global PR agencies are run by women.
    • Television news staffs are 40 percent female, but women represent just 32 percent of on-screen hosts during primetime evening shows.
    • The percentage of women working in print newsrooms has hovered at about 36 percent for the past two decades – and the percentage of female print newsroom supervisors has lingered at a similar low of 35 percent.

Still, the news is not all bad for women. There are signs all around us that progress, while slow, is taking hold. When it comes to gender equality, internet journalism is a slight cut above the rest, with women representing 42 percent of the industry. This is perhaps, in part, due to the nascency of the field, which has been able to circumvent at least some of the deeply ingrained, historically gender-imbalanced structures and biases of traditional media.

Paige Cunningham, author of The Washington Post’s innovative online health care newsletter, The Health 202, explained during a recent Women Leading Media event hosted by that outlet how she delivers scoops and navigates the complex world of health policy and Capitol Hill – all while justifying her ambitious new project in a male-dominated industry.

The Washington Post’s Women Leading Media Dinner on September 20, 2017

Surprisingly, when asked how she juggles the challenges that come with running and delivering results for a daily newsletter on one of the most contentious and consequential issues of our time while simultaneously raising two children under the age of four, her answer had nothing to do with gender. Instead, she said she follows two rules:

  1. Do the thing you least want to do first in the morning.
  2. If something will take two minutes or less to complete, do it now.

Rules like these are so simple that they are often overlooked. But the reality is that they can have a profound impact on one’s productivity and overall quality of life – assets that, when exhibited by a woman, can help to slowly chip away at gender inequality.

It is often said that belief in oneself is essential to success – and that belief starts with seeing people who look like us in leadership roles. Paige exemplifies this for women. Despite being perpetually up against the clock, she still manages to create a valuable daily product for one of the top newspapers in the country. And according to her, this is partially the result of following two basic rules.  Obviously, it will take time and continued effort for women to truly become equals in the media industry, but big leaps often start with small, simple steps.

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