Women In Charge: Newsrooms
By Pascal Beucler, Chief Strategy Officer, MSLGROUP
‘Why news organizations need more women leaders’ – this was the title of a recent debate at the #HackTheNewsroom News World Summit 2012 held in Paris. To elaborate, the question was if news media houses are resisting the trend of having more women at top positions, particularly within the newsrooms. And is there a glass-ceiling issue in newsrooms? What follows are insights I gleaned from the conference, and what I believe are the the most pertinent and relevant issues in most organizations, not just in newsrooms…
The goal of the session was to showcase how, when women are leading, their inputs are positive both for journalists and the audience.
However, here I must interject: statistics at the global two-days and a half News World Summit event showed that only 22% of participants were women. This fell to 20% if you considered speakers on the panels. And, none of the keynote speakers were women.
Returning to the debate, there were various collateral topics discussed, and here are some of the best:
Women In Charge: a necessity and a competitive advantage…but not yet a reality.
As Sylvie Kauffmann (on Twitter @SylvieKauffmann), from French daily Le Monde, underlined it, diversity and gender equality are just common sense, and an absolute necessity, but definitely not a reality. As an example, she mentioned a recent survey showing that only 18% of the sources that Le Monde utilizes (such as experts, field specialists) are women. She asked her colleagues at the editorial board whether they would commit to making Sources Parity a reality on a short-term basis. Well, months later, the discussion still continues….
Another point she highlighted is that women in responsibilities DO show a different style of management, and an efficient one, results wise. Based on my own experience and knowledge, I would agree that for many organizations, a gender switch would turn into a proven competitive advantage.
Different Management Styles
As a matter of fact, the female’s style of management is obviously different from the males’ classical one. Roughly said, it happens to be based on collaboration, rather than competition, and team spirit, rather than ‘chapel spirit’.
I’d be ready to bet that mostly male consultants built the BUs (business units)/silos’ organizational model. We are competition-oriented, not collaboration-led and this is the system as we know it. It’s a males’ world… In terms of spirit, values and emotional climate, a female style of management is obviously pretty different.
Another business asset and competitive advantage, particularly in the news organizations’ area, is about empathy: the more female leaders in the newsroom, the more female viewers/readers for the media. It’s well known indeed that women spend more time reading press, magazines, and sharing in social networks. Among the best examples which were mentioned:
- El Pais blog, made by and for women, which shows a great audience success
- The FT’s Women at the Top section
- The International Herald Tribune’s Female Factor is very successful too.
In other words, someone should tell dominant males that investing in women is investing in success…
Are/Should women be part of the diversity paradigm ?
There was quite a surprise in the audience, I guess, when Wolfgang Blau, (on Twitter @wblau) editor in chief, Zeit Online, stated that if, on one hand, equality between men and women is the most important criteria of a real democracy, shouldn’t we extend the principle to “gays, immigrants…and even East-German people?” (sic).
The question beyond this unexpected statement is to know where Diversity starts, and what it actually includes. If women are part of Diversity, does it imply that males are the normality, the «reference », the «source » where all starts? I’m not sure to be very comfortable with this vision.
Self-esteem and Empowerment
Recruiting female editorial leaders is not that easy, observed most of the panelists. Because women carry a double or triple burden (of professional and domestic tasks), they too often dare not embracing new responsibilities, fearing for their work-life balance.
In terms of talent and career management, it’s first about making women more confident in themselves. Encourage them, “push them, hunt them,” said a panelist. If self-esteem is indeed a personal, internal attitude that allows a woman to say to herself that she has value, that she’s “worth it”, that she’s unique and that she’s important, especially in her own eyes, then it needs to be strongly supported by Talent Officers and by the whole organization. And yes indeed, at some point, it has to be about providing them with an appropriate work-life balance, give them a real support and follow-up all the way long.
MSLGROUP’s Chief Strategy Officer, Pascal Beucler holds BAs in History and Language Sciences, a master’s degree in Linguistics and a post graduate degree in Semio-Linguistics.