Seventy percent of journalism school students are women, as are 76 percent of students in Columbia University’s prestigious Master of Arts in Journalism program. So what gives that in real-life newsrooms, 60 percent of the seats are filled by men?
I learned those statistics last night at the annual fundraising gala of The Knight-Bagehot Fellowship, a treasure of business journalism that’s been educating mid-career journalists for one-year stints at Columbia University for 39 years.
The keynote speaker was Elisabeth DeMarse, chairman, president and CEO of TheStreet, Inc. From her talk:
“So Columbia J School is doing its bit — it’s manufacturing a trained, credentialed pipeline of female talent. But we are out of synch. There is a gap in hiring and promotion. There is a gap in giving women and minorities a fair chance.”
And a call to action to younger men more prone to being gender- and color-blind:
“Please be leaders. Please hire and help and lift a hand outside of your image, outside of a narrow idea of clubhouse chemistry. After all, isn’t journalism about fairness and objectivity?”
I am not a neutral commentator on Elisabeth. I’m a journalism fellow at TheStreet Foundation and have known her since I joined Bloomberg News in 1995. (She worked for that guy who became mayor of New York City). So I’m biased. That said, consider the closing of her keynote address, and judge for yourself.
Here’s her closing on gender issues:
NOW BEFORE CLOSING, I WANT TO BRIEFLY MENTION SOMETHING THAT HAS NEVER BEFORE BEEN ADDRESSED AT THIS DINNER WHICH IS THE ISSUE OF DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION IN NEWSROOMS. WHEN I LOOK OUT AT THIS AUDIENCE, I SEE SO MUCH EXTRAORDINARY POTENTIAL. SOMETHING FANTASTIC IS HAPPENING EVERY DAY HERE AT THE J SCHOOL. THE AUTHENTICITY OF THESE FELLOWS AND THESE STUDENTS IS PALPABLE. J SCHOOL GRADUATES ARE TRAINED PROFESSIONALS WHO ARE EMOTIONALLY READY TO COMPETE AND SUCCEED.
TODAY, JOURNALISM SCHOOLS ARE OVER 70% FEMALE AND COLUMBIA’S MS PROGRAM 76% FEMALE. YET WE ARE HOPELESSLY OUT OF SYNCH. NEWSROOMS LINGER AT 40% FEMALE. SO COLUMBIA J SCHOOL IS DOING ITS BIT—IT’S MANUFACTURING A TRAINED, CREDENTIALED PIPELINE OF FEMALE TALENT. BUT WE ARE OUT OF SYNCH. THERE IS A GAP IS IN HIRING AND PROMOTION. THERE IS A GAP IS IN GIVING WOMEN AND MINORITIES A FAIR CHANCE.
NOW, LETS DICUSS THE PEOPLE BUSINESS JOURNALISTS ARE INTERVIEWING. ELITE BUSINESS SCHOOLS ARE 35% FEMALE. MANY PEOPLE DO NOT KNOW THAT—THE ASSUMPTION IS THAT HALF OF THE CLASS AT HBS AND STANFORD AND WHARTON IS FEMALE. BUT THAT’S NOT THE CASE. IMAGINE THAT. IT’S 2014, AND THE PIPELINE FOR FEMALE LEADERS IN BUSINESS IS HALF OF JOURNALISM. HEY GANG, THIS IS SIMPLY NOT ACCEPTABLE, AND WE KNOW WE CAN DO BETTER. IT IS UP TO US TO WORK TOGETHER TO BRING TALENTED YOUNG WOMEN AND MINORITIES UP THE RANKS.
BUT IT’S NOT SURPRISING WHEN NATE SILVER CAN SAY “CLUBHOUSE CHEMISTRY IS IMPORTANT.” I LOVE THE GUY, I RESPECT THE GUY, I DEVOUR EVERY WORD. BUT THOSE TWO WORDS—CLUBHOUSE AND CHEMISTRY–GIVE PERMISSION TO NEWSROOMS AND BUSINESSES EVERYWHERE TO HIRE AND FIRE IN THEIR OWN IMAGE.
IT’S CALLED HOMOPHILY, AND IT’S THE BIRDS OF A FEATHER SYNDROME, THE INEXORABLE TENDENCY TO BOND WITH SIMILAR PEOPLE. BUT YOUNG PEOPLE TODAY ARE SO COLOR BLIND AND GENDER BLIND AND SEXUAL PREFERENCE BLIND ITS FANTASTIC. HOORAY! THEY REALLY DON’T CARE. TO THE YOUNG MEN IN THIS ROOM, PLEASE CONTINUE TO BE SEX-BLIND AND COLOR BLIND. PLEASE BE LEADERS, PLEASE HIRE AND HELP AND LIFT A HAND OUTSIDE OF YOUR IMAGE, OUTSIDE OF A NARROW IDEA OF CLUBHOUSE CHEMISTRY. AFTER ALL, ISN’T JOURNALISM ABOUT FAIRNESS AND OBJECTIVITY?
IF WE ASPIRE TO ACHIEVE GENDER BALANCED LEADERSHIP, WE NEED MALE ADVOCACY, COMMITMENT, AND ACTION. GIVING YOUR FEMALE AND MINORITY COLLEAGUES THE OPPORTUNITY TO DEVELOP INTO SUCCESSFUL, ETHICAL LEADERS REQUIRES A LOT OF SUPPORT. GANG, IT’S NOT HAPPENING OTHERWISE. IT’S NOT HAPPENING BY ITSELF. SO I’D LIKE TO ASK THE YOUNG MEN IN THE ROOM TO PLEASE BE PART OF THE SOLUTION. PLEASE TAKE ON THE OBLIGATION TO MAKE THIS WORLD A PLACE WHERE WOMEN AND MINORITIES NEVER EXPERIENCE LIMITS BASED ON THEIR RACE OR GENDER.
CAPITALISM AND DEMOCRACY, IN COMBINATION, IS THE GREATEST SYSTEM IN THE WORLD. IT IS CRITICAL THAT WE ACTIVELY SUPPORT OUR DEMOCRATIC PRINCIPLES OF FAIRNESS AND OPPORTUNITY AND SUPPORT GENDER PARITY AND DIVERSITY.
IN SUPPORT OF OUR GREAT DEMOCRACY, DON’T FORGET TO VOTE TOMORROW. THANK YOU VERY MUCH.