Portions of the following originally appeared in an article at the Women's Media Center: WMC Award Winners Assess Media Progress by Marianne Schnall
Interviews conducted on the red carpet at Women’s Media Center Women's Media Awards 11/13/12, Gustavino's, New York City
Remarks by Pat Mitchell, Gloria Steinem, Robin Morgan, Sarah Hoye, Carol Jenkins, Julie Burton, Martha Nelson, Laura and Lisa Ling
Pat Mitchell, President & CEO, The Paley Center for Media, organizer TEDxWomen
Recipient of Women's Media Center Pat Mitchell Lifetime Achievement Award
Marianne Schnall: The WMC aims to change the status of women in the media. What change do you think most needs to happen?
Pat Mitchell: More women making decisions. I mean, a lot of things have changed – the numbers are better at almost every level – except at the top! We're still missing the numbers and the "clout" positions, as it has been phrased before – we need women with power and power to use it. And by the way, women who have the power willing to use it to make the right decisions for women.
MS: What to you is so important about the Women Media Center’s work?
PM: The advocacy that the Women’s Media Center does on a day and day out basis reminds us that media is just too important to leave to the people who are doing it [laughs]. I mean, there has to be someone outside advocating for the media consumers, advocating for the media users - and audience! Us, you know? And the Women’s Media Center’s doing that. They’re reminding us every day that it’s not power down anymore, it’s power up. And each and every one of us has that power and we need to use it.
MS: Everyone is talking about the power of women. We had a huge impact on the election – we’re speaking up when our rights are under attack and against offensive comments about women. What do you think the current mandate is for women today?
PM: It has probably never been more important to use our voices as loudly in a more united way than ever. So for me – that comes down to what I think is the single biggest lever for change – and that is women helping each other. If we do that, then all the gaps are going to start to disappear and we’re going to see something much closer to equity in this country.
Gloria Steinem, co-founder Women's Media Center
Marianne Schnall: The Women’s Media Center aims to change the status of women in the media. You founded Women’s Media Center back in 2004. What change do you think most needs to happen?
Gloria Steinem: Ownership. The best title is owner and we need more in media – for example, think about daytime radio and who is on it and who the drive time voices are. So certainly we have more outlets now, and in a sense we are each an owner because of the web and that’s very important – but there’s still big concentrations of power that are not ours, and that most people get their news and their dreams from.
MS: Sometimes talking about media can seem very abstract. Why is it important?
GS: Because we’re communal people and we need to hear each other’s stories otherwise we soon feel alone, wrong, crazy – so if we’re only seeing white guys doing something, we think only white guys can do it. And we need each other’s example and each other’s encouragement.
MS: Women had such a huge impact on this election. Everybody’s talking about the "year of the women" and our growing influence. What do you think is the current mandate for women today? We seem to have the spotlight, we have everyone’s attention…
GS: But we don’t have the power, so we have to understand that everything we do matters. And I would say we should go out and pick at the Koch brothers [laughs] and pick at Trump and make clear that we don’t want further financial advantage for these guys. Because the President and all the good in Washington can’t do it by themselves, we have to help them do it.
There’s a great story about Roosevelt who said to somebody who went into his office to lobby him – you’ve convinced me, now go out and force me to do it.
Robin Morgan, co-founder Women's Media Center
Marianne Schnall: The Women’s Media Center aims to change the status of women in the media. What change most needs to happen?
Robin Morgan: I think we need to get women at the top of the pyramid. And they have to be women who are not imitating men. In other words, we have more women in front of the camera now, and many people are lulled by thinking, "Oh, look at all those women" but they don’t define the news. They don’t define programming. They don’t define what’s reality and what isn’t. And that still is largely done by males behind the camera. So the point of getting all women and men of color as well into the pipeline towards those positions – that’s where you’ll begin to see a transformed media.
But in the meanwhile, the web is doing extraordinary things. And I’m presenting the social media award tonight [to AwesomelyLuvvie.com blogger Luvvie Ajayi], which I love to do because it’s the media of the future. Well, you know that – look who I’m talking to.
MS: I feel like this conversation often gets misconstrued as an equality thing, or just about fairness - but why is it important that women’s voices be represented?
RM: Because the news is where we get our information. And if we are getting our information from only white men, when the vast majority of people on the planet are neither white nor male, there’s a problem here. You don’t have democracy. And if you don’t have democracy in the media, you don’t have the democracy in the state. It’s just that simple. The media defines and reflects reality. But it doesn’t only reflect it – it defines it. So if only one group – anybody – is doing the defining – it’s off kilter and it reflects that. So it’s not only who is doing the reporting – it’s what is being reported and why and how.
You can tell the difference in the reaction even from the radio show that we’re doing now – Women’s Media Center Live with Robin Morgan. But we’re really – to use the old cliché - stepping outside the box, and we’re covering stories that the media hasn’t covered or they covered and we’re doing it in a totally different way. We did a reverse Columbus Day show, which was to return Columbus Day into first People’s Day, with Joy Harjo and Rebecca Adamson...so it’s exposing people to that alternate reality that most people live, which is very different from what we see in the media. And staying on it in-depth. And that’s what I think we need to do more – it’s transformative.
MS: Everybody’s talking about the impact of women in the election, speaking out for our rights and against anti-woman rhetoric. What do you think is the current mandate for women – what’s the call to action, now that women are starting to get a little bit more of the spotlight?
RM: Mainly, it’s not to relax. Not to think, ok, that means reproductive rights are safe, that means this is safe, that is safe – done deal, we can go back to our lives. This is our lives, and we’ve been put in a position with the ultra-right and the religious fundamentalists of having to re-win the things that we’ve run already, like they’re threatening Roe, the Personhood amendments – all of that. So that keeps us from pushing further - we should be pushing further.
And I think younger women are now really fired up – I think there had been this assumption that it was all solved – and the idea of losing, not just abortion rights, but contraceptive rights, was quite a wake-up call. So, I’m sorry about the wake up call, but to my delight, they’re energized, they’re pissed off for all the right reasons, and they’re moving.
Sarah Hoye:, All-Platform Journalist, CNN
Recipient Women’s Media Center Carol Jenkins Emerging Journalist Award
Marianne Schnall: So how does it feel to be honored for your work tonight?
Sarah Hoye: I mean, it’s completely amazing to actually be standing her with one of my heroes [Carol Jenkins] – I’m absolutely humbled, blessed and honored so I couldn’t be happier.
MS: Women's Media Center aims to change the status of women in the media. You have an overview in your position. What do you think needs to happen for women to achieve equal influence in the media?
SH: Well, I think just getting more women in the newsrooms period, but also having them climb! I think we get in but then what? And if you’re a person like me, I wear a number of hats and go a lot of places – but how easy is it to get into management – and not just management, but how easy it is for me to run something – can I get there, how do I get there, let’s make that happen.
MS: You seem pretty self-directed – where did this all come from? Was this learned? Were you born this way? What do you credit to your success? You have achieved so much.
SH: Well, my mother will tell you they added water and I just grew. So I think a lot of it just comes from – I was raised with boys, and you know what – I was taught, if you want something, you work hard, you go after it, and you make it happen.
MS: What advice would you have for women aspiring to enter the media workplace?
SH: Well, as I always say, you just always have to dot your eyes and cross your t’s, and if you believe it and if you work for it – you will make it happen, you will get there. But you have to do the work – it doesn’t come overnight and there’s no easy roads.
MS: Everybody’s talking about women – we had a huge impact on the election, this is the year where women really rose up and spoke up for our rights. What do you think is the current mandate for women? What is the call to action?
SH: Well, I think one of the big things, and we talk about this quite a bit – women need to advocate for themselves. We’re so good at advocating for others and for other causes, but when it comes to ourselves the individual, we don’t do it. So now that we’re here, let’s start championing ourselves.
Carol Jenkins, founding President and board member Women's Media Center
Marianne Schnall: I remember when you first called me all those years ago to be a part of the Women’s Media Center when it was first forming, so it is amazing to see all that WMC has accomplished since then. You have a real overview to where we are now. What remain the most important areas for change in terms of women and media?
Carol Jenkins: Well, I think on the criticism level, which I don’t want to say that in its most extreme sense, but being critical – observing what’s happening and commenting on it – I think that we’ve made a great deal of progress. People understand what sexism in the media is – when we started the Women’s Media Center, the networks told us there was no such thing, and by documenting what it was, what it meant, and the effects of it, that kidding about a Senate candidate could shave off ten or twenty points, really – so it’s not just fun, you really have to take into account the effect of your words. So we know that it’s not just men – that its women and the men, and it’s the media. It’s our society that really hasn’t taken sexism seriously. So I think in the years of the Women’s Media Center that’s happened.
Our work going to the networks saying you have to have people of color, you’ve got to have younger women – you’ve got to give everybody a shot, I believe it’s beginning to look at America. Which we learned in our election, you know – we’re a different America! [laughs] It needs to be reflected in the media. So we’ve made progress. Of course in the upper echelons, we haven’t seen nearly enough progress in that area yet. The example I give is that somebody will say, "Oh, you know, the managing editor of x network is a black woman! Everything is solved!" And I’ll say, wait a minute! How many levels of power are above her? How many people could rescind anything that she says or dictates? So I think we have to move up into those executive seats. Sarah is a perfect example of knowing everything and being able to ultimately run the entire show.
MS: Everybody’s talking about women – it’s as if women are waking up. to a sense of their own power. What's the call to action for women today?
CJ: Well, the call to action is to step forward and accept and demand equal rights. For a Presidential candidate to not understand what equal pay for women means is just absurd. I think if we just start there on that simple a level, that women in whatever field doing the same work, should earn the same amount of money – you will have children that will not go hungry, the economy will be better. So that could be the non-controversial - I mean, what’s controversial about that? Let’s just do that! Equal pay? Paid sick days? Those are no-brainers that we should be able to put into place before the next election.
Julie Burton, President, Women's Media Center
Marianne Schnall: You have obviously been working on these issues a long time – what area do you think is the most important focus for change?
Julie Burton: All platforms of media. The focus of the Women’s Media Center is to have equal representation on all media platforms. So tonight we’re celebrating these extraordinary champions for women and media and we’re looking to the future and we’re thanking those who are on the movement ride with us, because change doesn’t happen fast. We’d like to have it a little faster, kind of Internet style, 24-7, we could have the speed of change move a little faster.
MS: Post-election, everybody’s talking about women, we seem to have everybody’s attention. What’s the call to action? What do you see as the mandate for women today?
JB: Well, last week’s election was fantastic. And twenty women in the Senate is historic. But we are 51% of the population and we want our voices to be heard and we want to have equal representation. Same in media – only 3% of women have clout positions. So our work is to shine a light on the stories and bylines that we hear and read and see so that people understand we’re only seeing half the story. We know that everyone values the whole story.
Martha Nelson, Editorial Director, Time Inc.
Recipient Women's Media Center Going the Distance Award
Marianne Schnall: You’ve been in the media a long time. What type of changes would you most like to see?
Martha Nelson: You know, you immediately think of places of high visibility and so you think of both the on-camera and at the top of organizations. We certainly would like to see more ownership from an international point of view – you know when you get global, you’re starting to talk about not just a little change or a move up the ladder, you’re really talking about globally, you’re looking at a need that requires almost a complete social revolution in some countries. And so you when you look at that, you think about, well, our problems are good problems to have because we’re talking about more visibility, stepping up the ladder, more ownership, not about actually just having any voice at all, and that’s just a completely different perspective.
MS: You’re being honored for your work and your amazing career. What do you attribute it to?
MN: Well, the credit goes to two things – I was lucky to have parents who forced me to work hard, but they never told me what to work hard at, so I got to follow my passion. So they just said, “Just try hard at whatever you do, but you pick whatever you want to do.” And I had a father who told me the great thing about life is that you could always change. And so I never felt boxed in. I never felt like I had to do what I continued to do so I took other leaps. I took a lot of risks. And I would say the advice that I would offer to anybody is to follow your passion and then take the high road. On the decisions you have to make, be sure whatever you do, you can get up and look at yourself in the morning and be happy about it. And my path was not clear, and it didn’t seem to necessarily be leading to anyplace in particular. So there was no five year plan. In fact, I still don’t have a five year plan!
Laura Ling, Host and Reporter,
Lisa Ling, Host, OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network's
Our America with Lisa Ling
Recipients Women’s Media Center Sisterhood is Powerful Award
MS: In terms of media, you both are doing such important work. The Women’s Media Center works to create change in the status of women in the media. What changes would you most like to see?
Lisa Ling: Well, I would like to see more women in executive positions in the media. I mean, it still really is an old boy’s club. It’s changing, and there’s increasingly more women in executive levels but we definitely need to see more - the more women, the more minorities we have at the executive levels, the more sensitive we’ll be for women and for minorities.
Laura Ling: And I think more representation of women’s issues around the world. Women make up half our population but we don’t see that represented in the media, and there’s so many stories that need to be told.
MS: Women had such a big impact on the election and this year women’s issues really took center stage. What do you think is the current mandate or call for action for women?
Lisa Ling: I think this election was so telling. And when women started to see or feel like their rights were being violated or their bodies were being attacked, it was galvanizing and I think women really came together, they wanted to exercise their vote, they wanted to go out and campaign. Some women are wanting to pursue political office. And so sometimes it takes that one thing to spark a change, but for me it was really exciting, and I haven’t felt that kind of urgency about women’s issues in a long time.
MS: You two are being honored as trailblazers and role models. What do you credit your success to or what advice would you have in terms of following your dreams and using your voices?
Lisa Ling: You know for me, the game changer in my life was the opportunity at a young age to travel – we didn’t have a lot of money growing up, and we were lucky enough to have jobs that sent us all over the world. And being exposed to things that are happening in the world changed our lives, opened our minds and our eyes. And once you are exposed to things that are happening in the world, you can’t turn it off and pretend it doesn’t exist so that’s something I try to encourage all people to try and do is travel and see the world.
Laura Ling: Yeah, I mean we grew up in a very non-diverse community and a very all-American community and I think it was that passion to really see what was going on outside of our neighborhood to allow us to see that there was a different world out there. It really changed our perspective about the world and about ourselves.
Portions of the above originally appeared in an article at the Women's Media Center: WMC Award Winners Assess Media Progress by Marianne Schnall
The Women's Media Center makes women visible and powerful in the media. WMC works with the media to ensure that women’s stories are told and women’s voices are heard. We do this in the following ways: media advocacy campaigns, media monitoring for sexism, creating original content, and training women and girls to participate in media. We are directly engaged with the media at all levels to ensure that a diverse group of women is present in newsrooms, on air, in print and online, in film, entertainment, and theater, as sources and subjects.
The Women’s Media Center was founded in 2005 as a non-profit progressive women's media organization by Jane Fonda, Robin Morgan, and Gloria Steinem. For more information visit www.womensmediacenter.com.
Marianne Schnall is a widely published writer and interviewer. She is also the founder and Executive Director of Feminist.com and cofounder of EcoMall.com, a website promoting environmentally-friendly living. Marianne has worked for many media outlets and publications. Her interviews with well-known individuals appear at Feminist.com as well as in publications such as O, The Oprah Magazine, CNN.com, In Style, The Huffington Post, the Women's Media Center, and many others.
Marianne is the author of Daring to Be Ourselves: Influential Women Share Insights on Courage, Happiness and Finding Your Own Voice based on her interviews with a variety of well-known women. Through her writings, interviews, and websites, Marianne strives to raise awareness and inspire activism around important issues and causes. For more information, visit www.marianneschnall.com and www.daringtobeourselves.com