Four Reasons We Need More Women in the Newsroom

  • Women make up less than a quarter of the top management positions and less than a third of governance positions worldwide in the news media, according to the International Women’s Media Foundation’s “Global Report.”
  • In the United States, only 10 percent of supervisory or upper management positions in newsrooms are occupied by women.
  • A report by the Women’s Media Center found that at the New York Times, only 31 percent of reporting bylines belong to women.
  • Here are four reasons why having more women in the newsroom can make a difference:
    1. When a significant proportion of the news media’s customers are women, and media companies everywhere are struggling to survive, including women in leadership roles will help ensure that programming and reporting will attract a broad audience.
    2. Women leaders tend to create more gender equity in their companies. In the case of Jill Abramson—the first woman to be hired as senior editor of the New York Times in its 160-year history (before she was fired)—she developed and promoted several senior female editors and achieved 50 percent female representation among the newspaper’s top editors for the first time.
    3. Diverse teams are more effective teams. Differences in perspective and life experience bring better solutions to problems.
    4. More representation for women can help keep the spotlight on issues of equity and fairness that will benefit us all.
    All of the points made here about the value that gender representation can add could also be made for all dimensions of diversity. What other benefits do you see for increasing diversity in the newsroom?]]>

    Next Steps for Keeping Relationships Healthy

  • Practice the skill of mutual empathy. Identify a relationship, either inside or outside of work, where you have recently experienced some tension that was not discussed.
    1. Write down what you experienced (describe the behaviors you noticed) and what you felt (for example, surprise or discomfort).
    2. Ask the other person for a time to get together to talk something over. Tell her you are concerned that a misunderstanding might have happened. Tell her what you experienced and felt, and ask her what she experienced and felt.
    3. Listen deeply to each other and ask questions for understanding. Do not interrupt each other. Really listen.
  • Practice naming and negotiating. If a misunderstanding was developing in step 1 above, then name the friendship rules that may have been operating for you, and ask the other person how they compare to hers. Try to agree on new ones that will work better to meet the needs you both have.
  • Practice role hats. The next time you are going to a meeting with a woman who has a role different from yours (with either a level or a functional difference), ask a colleague to help you clarify the roles before the meeting. Write down the role hat you think you will wear and the one the other woman will wear in the upcoming meeting. Debrief with your colleague after the meeting. What did you notice about your expectations for the interaction? Continue this practice before the next few meetings to sharpen your skills.
  •   An excerpt from my book, New Rules for Women, available at Amazon (]]>

    When Is It Okay to Be Selfish at Work?

  • “I am being undermined by a male peer at work. If I go to my boss and tell him what this guy is saying about me is not true, will my boss see me as selfish and self-serving?”
  • “My boss is encouraging me to apply for a position that would be a significant promotion for me. Why me? I have peers that would be good in this role, too. Will my peers see me as selfish if I apply for it?”
  • “I am burning out in my job because I am a supervisor, but I feel guilty and selfish delegating to my staff, so I do a lot myself instead of asking them.”
  • “I applied for a job, but I haven’t heard back from the woman who interviewed me. I am reluctant to call or e-mail her to follow up—I don’t want to be seen as pushy or self-serving.”
  • “I have been invited to give a TED Talk, but doing so does not relate directly to the work I am doing. The opportunity could provide me with a credential in the future if I ever change jobs, but taking the time away from my work projects to prepare this presentation feels selfish.”
  • Joyce Fletcher, in her book Disappearing Acts, addresses the need to replace the stereotype of women as “selfless” with a concrete understanding of the effectiveness of a relational leadership style. Adam Grant, in his new book Give and Take, reports on research showing that givers are more successful than takers—as long as they don’t “sacrifice their own interests for the benefit of others.” In other words, the best strategy is a “both/and” approach—you can be focused on the needs of others and on your own interests. Here are some tips that helped my clients take care of their own interests:
    1. Stand up for yourself. If a peer, male or female, is undermining you by saying negative things about your work, letting your boss know your side of the story—and confronting your peer—is important. Let the person know you are not going to let him or her damage your credibility.
    2. Put yourself forward for promotions. Research shows that many women hesitate to apply for promotions. In an ideal world, both you and your peers would openly encourage one another, if interested, to apply for promotions and then commit to fully supporting whoever is promoted. Even in the absence of the ideal, you can, and should, apply.
    3. Avoid burnout. Check in regularly with your staff about their workload and help them prioritize their work. If the load is too heavy for them and for you, go to your boss and ask her or him to prioritize your workload or to take some things off your plate.
    Taking care of yourself and your future is not being selfish; rather, taking care of yourself will make you a better employee, boss, and colleague.]]>

    Have Relationships Changed for Younger Women?

                My passion is helping women be successful, and I believe that having strong relationships with other women at work is a key to our success. When I speak about my new book New Rules for Women: Revolutionizing the Way Women Work Together, I am often asked, “Haven’t things changed for younger women?” I always answer honestly that I have not studied the dynamics of younger women’s relationships, which is why I was so interested in a recent article in the Huffington Post by writer and college student Lexi Herrick. Herrick does not claim to be reporting research findings, but many of the relationship problems she sees with women her age sound very familiar. Here are some examples from her list of 18 things women need to stop doing to each other:

    • “Slut-shaming.” Herrick encourages her readers to let other women make their own decisions and to resist the urge to express disapproval of other women’s sexual choices. She suggests this motto to live by: “Not your vagina, not your business.”
    • “Seriously, just saying ‘oh my gosh you’re so skinny’ is just as demeaning as commenting on the weight that a girl has gained. Just don’t.” Herrick says to avoid making any comments about other women’s bodies.
    • “Avoiding actual conversation with a woman you’re in a conflict with.” Though telling others about a conflict may be easier than dealing directly with the person we’re upset with, Herrick advocates for going straight to the source and working it out like adults.
    • “Being fake to each other.” If you’re having trouble with another woman, Herrick says, “Simply don’t associate with her.” Don’t pretend to be her friend, but make negative comments about her when she isn’t around.
    • “Sub-tweeting about each other or crafting any kind of indirect social media post.” Such passive-aggressive behavior may have been acceptable in junior high, but now, Herrick argues, “We are way too old for this sh*t.”
    Please read Herrick’s full list (linked above). Her suggestions are relevant for women of all ages. Herrick closes by saying, “Love and be loved by other women, because when we work together we are a force to be reckoned with.” Yes! What would you say that women need to stop doing to each other to build trust and support?]]>

    Don’t Discuss Friendship Rules

  • “She should know what she did.”
  • “I shouldn’t have to say anything. She should be able to figure it out.”
  • “There isn’t any point in bringing it up because she would just get defensive.”
  • “I can’t trust her now so what’s the point?”
  • The taboo against discussion means that mismatched assumptions may not be discovered until damage has been done to the relationship. Vana, a Latina manager in the United States in her forties, explained,

    We never really stop and talk about what we expect from each other as friends. I know I would always help you out, but we never stop and say those things. We just, in our minds, expect it—and it’s our own fault that we get burned sometimes.

    It becomes even more imperative to be able to name and discuss our friendship rules in the workplace, where boundary and role confusion also enter the picture. We must learn to articulate and negotiate our friendship rules and develop relational courage so that we can stay present and in relationships when other women do not meet our expectations.   An excerpt from my book, New Rules for Women, available at Amazon (]]>

    How Friendly to Be When You Are the Boss

    women tend to emphasize the fluid nature of the boundaries between personal life and work life. But fluid boundaries can also cause confusion. One research participant, Penny, an administrator in higher education, explained, “My female staff will come to me and say, ‘How’s your boyfriend?’ They feel like a relationship with me should be all access.” Penny wanted to be friendly but was afraid of undermining her authority as the boss. She wondered whether she should just keep a distance and stay aloof. In conducting research for my book on women’s relationships in organizations, New Rules for Women: Revolutionizing the Way Women Work Together, I found that women expect closer relationships with female bosses than with male bosses. Sheri, a technology manager, expressed it this way: I had a woman boss who was more task focused, and it made it harder for me to work for her. With a guy, I would have expected [a task focus], but I expected a little bit more of a relationship from her. It was all she could do to say, “How was your weekend?” That made it real uncomfortable for me. If a guy did that, it wouldn’t bother me as much. This difference in expectations means that when female bosses do not invest the time to be friendly with female employees, these employees may not be as motivated or productive as they could be. The good news is that our comfort with fluid relationship boundaries can contribute to our successes at building teams and highly productive workforces. The bad news is that fluid boundaries can cause confusion and damage relationships when not handled well. What is the answer? Scholars, and about 25 percent of the women in my research, propose that women bosses learn to distinguish between being friends and being friendly with other women at work. I would go a step further and say that this does not need to be an either/or option. We can be both friends and friendly as the boss, but we need to be able to name our role—boss or friend—in any given interaction. We also need to have a clear understanding of how the relational expectations differ for these two roles. Use a Tool Called Role Hats Women leaders can learn to manage role and relationship boundaries. We can be friendly and still be respected as the boss. We can even be the bosses of friends without damaging the relationship. The key is to learn how to discuss and negotiate our role and relationship boundaries. Sharon, the CEO of a healthcare services organization, applies a useful tool called role hats: To be friends at work requires total transparency. I explicitly name the role that I’m coming from—boss or friend. And we are always clear about how the hats work—what I can and cannot talk about when I have my boss hat on and how I see my responsibilities. We can also be friends outside of work as long as we stay clear about our hats. The key, then, is to be explicit about your expectations. We can be friendly and still be the boss, but we must be clear about what wearing the boss hat means to us, as well as make sure we understand our employees’ expectations of us. Here are some steps you can take to make this work:

    1. Name each person’s functional role, such as boss, friend, or colleague.
    2. Discuss each person’s needs in each role and really listen to one another.
    3. Exchange suggestions for behaviors that could meet each person’s needs in each role.
    4. Establish ground rules for how you will alert each other to your use of a role hat, such as:
      1. Ask me which hat I’m wearing.
      2. Ask me to change hats any time.
    5. Communicate honestly with each other whenever you cannot comply with a request and always explain why.
    Good relationships at work are important for our well-being, satisfaction, and success. Because many women expect more of a relationship from female bosses than from males, we need to learn to invest in relationships and to manage their boundaries when necessary. And we can do this.]]>

    Competing with a Friend for a Promotion: Can This Relationship Survive?

    Other scholars have describedthese expectationsas relational images that develop early in life and are carried from one relationship to another, sometimes changing with new experiences. We don’t show up in the workplace as a blank slate. We carry with us all of the things we have learned, including our friendship rules and expectations. Men have friendship rules too, but because of differences in our gender socialization, theirs are not the same as ours. Women I talk with often marvel at the way men can disagree or compete at work and then go out for a beer together as though nothing happened, while women do not get over similar experiences with other women for a long time—if ever. What friendship rules could be making it harder for women to compete with a woman friend for a new job or promotion? My research validated the work of other scholars who describe a core of very common friendship rules. Not everyone has the same rules, and there will be variations for cultural differences. Below are the most commonly reported friendship rules:

    • Maintain unswerving loyalty.
    • Demonstrate trustworthiness.
    • Keep confidences.
    • Be a good listener.
    • Share gossip and air problems.
    • Provide self-disclosure.
    • Practice equality and acceptance, and refrain from disapproval.
    • Avoid discussion of the friendship rules.
    Could it be that it feels disloyal to compete with a woman friend for a job? Or could it be hard to face the possibility that you will no longer be equals after one of you gets the promotion? One thing is certain: if it is taboo to discuss friendship rules, our friendships will be at high risk for damage in competitive professional situations. Here are some tips for how you can both preserve relationships and compete with other women in the workplace. First, have a friendship-rules conversation. Include as many of these points as you can with your friend:
    1. Confirm that the friendship is important to you and you don’t want it to be damaged because you are both applying for the same job.
    2. Propose a friendship rule that you wish each other the best in pursuing the job.
    3. Suggest a friendship rule that whoever gets the job will have the full support of the other to be successful.
    4. Acknowledge to each other that applying for the position is not personal, it’s professional.
    Men compete with each other for jobs all the time and usually don’t take it personally. We can do this, too, women, if we are intentional and supportive in our relationships with each other. Let us know what has worked for you in competitive situations with a friend.]]>