What Media Professionals Can Do To Strengthen The Impact Of Utah Girls And Women

Culture

Though the role of a journalist is to report about the world objectively, the very nature of public media puts these professionals in a visible and trusted position. In choosing which stories to tell and how to tell them, reporters and producers naturally influence attitudes and beliefs. Media professionals can positively impact women and girls in the broader culture as follows.

  • Be intentional about creating content that is relevant to women; this includes more stories on “women’s issues,” but also a gender-informed perspective on any issue where gender may be relevant.
  • Address controversial and/or sensitive topics that affect women disproportionally, including sexual harassment and assault, domestic violence, body image, and mental health concerns; these issues cannot be battled effectively if they are treated as taboo; it is also critical to broaden the scope by reporting boys’ and men’s experiences with these issues.
  • Avoid the temptation to focus exclusively on challenges or controversies; be proactive and incorporate positive storytelling about women’s lives.

Expanding Representation

One of the challenges facing many women in Utah is an inability to imagine opportunities for growth and leadership (i.e., “you can’t be what you can’t see”). Media professionals are uniquely positioned to raise public awareness of women who are defying stereotypes. Further, they can expand the definition of whose stories are deemed worth telling and which experts are worth listening to. These professionals can address the prevailing trend of narrow media representation by doing the following:

  • Find and tell more stories about women who are making a difference and leading in their homes, neighborhoods, churches, businesses, and communities; a positive spotlight on adult women can have a powerful effect on young women and girls.
  • Look beyond the traditional or typical, in addition to what may be familiar, when telling women’s stories.
  • Use deliberate strategies to diversify expert sources and witnesses for news stories (databases and tracking can ensure new sources are being consulted); expand networks and ask the question “who else should I be talking to about this?”

Unconscious Bias

Everyone has unconscious biases, which can be either confirmed or challenged by news coverage. Members of the media can positively influence their communities in ways that support those often harmed by bias (including women), by identifying biases within themselves, their organizations, and the broader society:

  • Ask for organization-wide unconscious bias training at all levels; bias can’t be addressed unless it is first acknowledged and then explored.
  • Consider using an external consultant to conduct a thorough cultural assessment of institutionalized unconscious bias.
  • Identify and work to reduce existing organizational gender gaps in pay, prestige, promotion, influence, and leadership.

Professional Development

The news media is known to be a highly competitive industry, and though many women work in entry- and some mid-level positions, few women make it to top levels of management. Successful media professionals recognize the value that comes when more women are decision-makers and influencers. They can promote professional success among their female colleagues by doing the following:

  • Create formal mentoring programs, including those focused specifically on identifying, nurturing, and advancing female talent.
  • Educate young professionals about the many varying career pathways within the industry, both public and behind-the-scenes roles.
  • Work to inspire the next generation of female journalists and broadcasters; mentor student interns and model/teach professional characteristics such as a strong work ethic, reliability, integrity, composure, and a willingness to take and implement feedback.

Workplace Environment

The high-pressure environment of the newsroom may affect women employees disproportionally, as they are often the ones carrying a higher burden of unpaid work. Further, as public figures, members of the media face heightened workplace challenges, including harassment and safety issues. Media professionals working at all levels of an organization can make efforts to create a work environment where women can thrive:

  • Question the prevailing mindset that news always comes first and employees come last; advocate for a workplace that supports employees’ needs and longterm wellbeing, and reject the notion that media professionals are expendable.
  • Advocate for policies that benefit women, including flexibility, childcare, family leave, and remote or part-time opportunities.
  • Create comprehensive strategies that will both protect and empower female employees in the public eye as they encounter harassment and other threatening behaviors at work.

Conclusion

Media professionals are some of the most recognizable and trusted voices in Utah, and many wish to use their voices to amplify those that have traditionally been underrepresented in the public sphere. As these members of the media initiate important conversations and raise awareness of critical issues, they can improve the wellbeing of women within their own organizations, while also strengthening the impact of all girls and women throughout the state.


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