For a quick snapshot of the impact that the lack of media diversity has had, take a look at the organizations advocating to change the stereotypes that its left us with (two of my favorites: the Black Daddies Club which is a movement to change the negative media image of black fathers and the Womens Media Center, their tag-line, “Amplifying women’s voices. Changing the conversation.” just says it all).
For me, it was the now infamous and disappointing way in which the New York Times covered the brutal rape of an 11 year old girl that brought to mind the need for more diversity in the newsroom, specifically at the editorial level. And which also got me thinking about how lack of newsroom diversity, well racial diversity to be specific, impacts the MomShift issues of: women, careers and post-baby professional success.
For instance,the media stories on the topic are overwhelming defined by the struggles and concerns of professional, middle class women. Take the entire debate on the “choice” to return to work, it presumes a partner, who is willing and able to support the family.
Almost entirely absent from the larger mainstream discussion are the stories of immigrant woman and those outside the so called “professional” strata. And while, I don’t believe its intentional the result is the same. Overlooked stories and absent view points.
I recently experienced how this happens and with it, the reminder of how important diversity at the editorial and production level really is.
A magazine editor I was working with, a wonderful women who gets the MomShift goals and why we need to hear these positive stories suggested removing one of the interviews from the piece. For her, this woman’s story didn’t resonate because, “Really, no one can be working that hard, it sounds made up.”
It wasn’t. The story in question was about a recent immigrant who, with a 1 year old in tow, was doing her MBA full time and working five nights a week. Her husband was doing the same. Finances were tight and they had no family support in their new city. The story ends well (today they both have excellent jobs and a second child) but it didn’t reflect the experiences of this editor or any of the women she knew, so out it went.
So how do you change this? Well, initiatives that are actively adding new viewpoints to mainstream issues by connecting time and resource pressed journalists to different perspectives is a great start. Part of the problem, (as I’m increasingly realizing) is that finding stories from your own professional and social circle is dangerously easy.
So far, I’ve interviewed a few women who found post baby success while adapting to a new country, or who first had kids and then went to university or college to start their career, but only because their stories just happened to come my way. But I’ve decided that for my target of the next 100 interviews, I am going to actively do my small part to help bring more missing voices forward by deliberately reaching out to new networks and organizations that can help me showcase that post baby professional success is happening in all communities and among a diverse spectrum of women.
Ideas or suggestions on who to contact – very much welcome. And since I edit this website, at least I know their profiles will be included here. I can’t promise anything on the grammar though.