Last Monday, October 26, I attended the Women in Media panel hosted at MU by several 2015 Missouri Honor Medal winners: Barbara Ehrenreich, author and activist who wrote the New York Times bestseller “Nickel and Dimed;” Merrill Perlman, a copy editor who retired from the New York Times; and Meredith Artley, editor in chief of CNN Digital. The panel was moderated by Jacqui Banaszynski who asked the three women questions along with the crowd. I thought the panel was an incredible opportunity to be in the same room as these women that have had such exemplary careers in varied areas of journalism. They say that visibility is important, that seeing people like yourself in successful positions will show you that you can get there, too, and I agree. Female journalism students need to see and hear from and interact with actual female journalists (and these were Missouri Honor Medal winners, no less).
One thing about this session that I thought was a bit problematic, however, was the willingness of all three women on the panel to brush off sexism. I mean, they were at a panel entitled “Women in Media.” They acted like they were surprised to be asked questions about experiencing sexism or discrimination in the workplace or in hiring practices. It bothered me that the women were so quick to defend any out-of-the-ordinary behavior toward them in the workplace as “not because he was a man.” The most the panel did, it seemed, was to merely acknowledge that sexism maybe, kind of exists in some areas of some careers. Yes, Ehrenreich, Perlman and Artley did offer some great advice about how to get ahead in a journalistic career and how to balance work and regular life, but it was all very general. I just wish there could have been more of a focus on the “women” part of the title.