Women in Media panel

Last July, I was lucky to meet a group of spirited, smart and savvy young girls taking part in a media camp run by the YWCA. I did a story on them for the paper, and I was so impressed with their questions, their critical thinking and their attitude towards media portrayals of women. We had a terrific, thought-provoking conversation on topics ranging from song of the summer Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” to why female celebrities are always photographed with their mouths open on magazine covers and editorials. I left the girls that day feeling inspired to be both a more discerning and responsible member of the media and receptor of media too, because I’m just as vulnerable to buying into certain ideals and messages.

So when Kate, the leader of the camp and program coordinator of the YWCA’s Media2Me, contacted me a few weeks ago to see if I’d be interested in appearing on a media panel for the YWCA’s National Career Day, I jumped at the chance. Now the panel is just a few days away (this Saturday) and Kate sent me some more information about what to expect.

I’ll have 5-8 minutes to speak, and the YWCA is asking me to bring an item as a show and tell piece that speaks to the work I do in media. I’m going to have to think about this! Kate suggested something I use in my industry or something personal that inspires the work I do.

She’s also asking me and the other two women on the panel (so excited to meet Sophie from 91.5 and R&B/pop recording artist Trish!) to speak on the following questions:
– Why is it important to have women’s voices in media? (you can speak specifically to your industry, or in general)
– What are some of the challenges or barriers women uniquely face in your industry?
– What inspires you?
I’m going to have to think about all these questions in greater detail, but off the top of my head my gut answers are:
– because we make up half the population! 🙂 And because women are funny, smart, engaged, passionate, caring. Specifically to my industry, women reporters can often get stories and go places where men cannot. I’m thinking of sharing stories about life in Afghanistan for women – a male journalist wouldn’t be allowed to speak to women there, yet these are valuable stories that need to be told. On a more trivial note, even yesterday my male colleague told me I’m able to get certain stories because I’m more approachable than men. I had complimented two older women on their hats and brooches, and that led to a conversation between the three of us that I used in a story I ended up writing yesterday. They confided in me because – as silly as it sounds – we had initially bonded over, yes, fashion. Something stereotypically “girly” or in that female domain, but it led to them opening up to me and maybe they wouldn’t have if J.P. had been the one to approach them. Who knows.
– Challenges/barriers women face in the media industry? Ha. APPEARANCE. SEXISM. That’s what it boils down to, I think. What you wear, how you look, whether you’re wearing makeup…media is all about appearances. Even my own grandfather – an educated, well-traveled, kind man with five daughters and a long, loving marriage – has said it’s time to replace a certain female news anchor because “she’s looking a little long in the tooth!” Would ANYONE say that about Peter Mansbridge??? I don’t think so. But maybe these specific barriers aren’t so unique to my industry, because I actually think they’re present in every workforce.
– What inspires me? Girls like the ones I met at the YWCA in the summer, for sure. They make me want to be a better example to them, to work on my own hang-ups about myself so I can truly be a role model. My parents inspire me. Other journalists. My dreams and goals. Certain teachers I’ve had, like Nazia who has become a dear friend of mine in addition to being the first person to teach me Russian. Injustices inspire me, and so do happy stories – yes, they’re out there! The thought that I have a valuable tool at my hands that can help create good always, always inspires me. When I get emails from people asking how they can donate to a cause I wrote about, or telling me that my article helped a situation get better, I’m motivated even more to seek out stories that can help bring positive change to communities.
What about you? What are your answers to these questions?
I’m really, really excited about this media panel. I’ll write all about it on the weekend!

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