Women, the Media, and the Workplace: What Women and Men Can Do to Change the Culture of Sexual Harassment
By: Lindsey Clinkingbeard
Moderated by Frank Russell Chair Julia Wallace, the March 20th Women in the Workplace conversation centered around acknowledging the sexual harassment culture and power imbalances in the workplace.
The discussion at the Cronkite school featured ABC 15’s Anita Helt, Retha Hill, the Director of New Media Innovation and Entrepreneurship Lab, News Deeply’s co-founder and CEO Lara Setrakian, and Chrys Wu the co-founder of Write/Speak/Code for women developers.
When prompted by Wallace about the “bro-culture” in the tech industry, Wu – who was corresponding via Skype – said that we as a society have to start acknowledging that the dominant cultural norm here is shaped around ‘white,’ ‘male,’ and ‘straight.’ She added that this likely influences a lot of what we do and how we make judgements.
Wearing a t-shirt with the words “Nah” – Rosa Parks, Hill discussed the importance of both women and men fighting for equality. She discussed the culture of “old school journalism” and how women of color experienced a duality of issues on both sides
“Women of color are still the minority in journalism. Around 13-14%,” Hill said. “Your allies or mentors are few and far between,” she added.
Hill said that being part of the minority drove women of color to band together. That’s why when it came to the conversation about sexual harassment, Hill said you can’t forget to address the “unbalance” in society. This conversation allotted space for Hill to share some of her own personal experience with sexual assault.
Hill continued to emphasize that the most important thing as a journalist is to focus on the people.
“Try to work with [different] people…. It’s about being a good reporter, it’s not about being the top correspondent. It’s about the ethics of your reporting,” Hill said.
Helt spoke about the role that office politics play in workplace culture, and how the lack of leadership training for both men and women in management roles contributed to this issue.
“As [part of the media] industry we have to do a better job at providing our up-and-coming with tools on leadership development,” Helt said.
Helt said there would always be “unspoken rules” in each office, but it is up to the employee to determine their own personal “non-negotiables.”
“No matter how much you talk about it… these are things that can take a long time [to change]. When you have a culture of sexual harassment, it doesn’t change fast enough,” Helt said.
Discussing the media industry, Setrakian reminded the audience there is an important degree of “sensitivity” and “making people feel comfortable” when you as the journalist are acting as the story teller. This especially applies to the context of victims of sexual assault.
“You’re going to face some challenges because you’re reporting on serious material,” Setrakian said.
“So the values you bring to the table are important.”