In which girl power is nice, but not enough

by Hannah Silvers

NEW YORK CITY — Anyone who’s ever met me could have told you that I’d never miss an opportunity to attend a session titled, “Like a Boss (Lady).” Two women (one working in animation at Nick Jr. and the other on the breaking news team at Time) led the session about what it means to lead as a woman in a male-dominated field.

It was all very supportive and lovely, and there was a lot of mutual support and respect among everyone in the room. But I wished we’d had time for a deeper discussion.

The presenters talked a lot about how to stand your ground as a woman in the field. They told us how they learned to prove themselves part of the team, e.g., by purposefully sitting down with their male co-workers at lunch, or by ignoring presidential candidates’ questions of, “How old are you?” and soldiering forth with well-researched questions that “prove” to your interviewees that you know what you’re doing.

But we didn’t talk about what to do about the fact that we have to do these things.

We have to “prove ourselves” in the current structure. It’s the only way to get into editorial positions. But what about when we get there? We talked a little about encouraging and mentoring the other women who work with us, but that’s not really going to help the next generation of women who will have to fight the same fight we fought.

Once we reach leadership positions, I think, we have to use our influence to make things better for the people who some after us. We have to actively rewrite the conversation and be confrontational where younger people can’t be, either for fear of losing their jobs or the respect of their co-workers. And I wish the presenters had tasked the 50 or so women journalists in the room with that responsibility.

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