Myself, Kathleen, Bora, Rose, and Lena at Scio13
Photo by Russ Creech
Confession time, folks: all of the sci4hels members are women. Young women, at the start of their careers in science journalism. To date, nothing Rose
and I have done in the lead up to our panel discussion at the World Conference of Science Journalists
has addressed this fact, including our website
, blog posts
or question time
. Why should it? The topic of the panel has nothing to do with gender. In case you’ve missed me talking nonstop about sci4hels in the last six months here is the panel description:
The ‘Killer’ Science Journalists of the Future: “The science media ecosystem has never been as big, as good or as vibrant as it is today. Many young writers are joining the ranks of veterans each year- and they are good! Many of them have science backgrounds. They all write really well. And they are digital natives, effortlessly navigating today’s online world and using all the tools available to them. But some of them are going beyond being well adapted to the new media ecosystem – they are actively creating it. They experiment with new forms and formats to tell stories online, and if the appropriate tool is missing – they build it themselves. Not only can they write well, they can also code (well, some of us), design for the web, produce all types of multimedia, and do all of this with seemingly more fun than effort, seeing each other as collaborators rather than competitors. I’d like to see the best of them tell us what they do, how they do it and what they envision for the media ecosystem they are currently building.” – Bora Zivkovic (panel organizer)
Being female isn’t a part of that description. Yet, the panel is all female. Bora chose us by sifting through the work of dozens of new science journalists, by narrowing down his list slowly to make sure that he chose three panelists and a moderator whose experience and interests would make the best lineup. He ended up with four women. As four women who now have an international platform to discuss our profession, should we address our gender or not? Is it the proverbial gorilla in the room? Do we have some kind of duty to use our powers for good to try to tackle feminism and journalism just because we can? Are we putting some kind of target on our backs for criticism by calling attention to our gender?
I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, with a mixture of excitement and dread because we’ve made the decision to go there – to talk about being female science journalists. For me, even though I have my concerns about incorporating our gender into the official sci4hels discussion I don’t see how we can avoid talking about it. It comes up all the time behind closed doors, and if we’re going to commiserate and try to help each other tackle it, why shouldn’t we open it up to our larger community? So, the next sci4hels question time (what, you missed question #1 and question #2?) is going to set out to constructively answer: how do we get more women to the top of the masthead?
In the words of conversation moderator Rose Eveleth: “There are tons of women in science journalism, but very few at the very top. This isn’t a journalism specific problem, obviously, but in a field where the early and mid-career ranks are full of women, what can we do to even the numbers at the top? And, pertaining to our panel, what can the younger generations of science journalists do about it?”
We’re going to be discussing this on Thursday 4/11 at 10 am EST on Twitter at the hashtag #sci4hels. I’m excited for what I hope will be a value filled conversation about how women can rise to the top of the journalism hierarchy. I’m more excited to see what advice there is for young women particularly because trying to establish credibility is hard for everyone, but being new and being a woman is like a double whammy when it comes to trying to convince someone you know what you’re doing. If you don’t have your PhD or a Pulitzer to wave around to tell people you know your stuff, it is that much harder. We tackled how to break into the business with question #2, so I think this is a logical progression: once you’re in, then what? How do you continue to push your career forward and not plateau at deputy associate editor for XYZ?
With the first two questions I at least had some kind of an answer or advice to offer to the conversation. I don’t have as much to give about this topic. Aside from the painfully obvious, yet still painfully necessary advice to be professional – which includes writing polite and appropriate emails, meeting deadlines, and communicating with your editors should problems arise – I’m not really sure how you go about positioning yourself to rise through the ranks. All the more reason why I think this question is a necessary one. So here’s hoping we can accomplish more than just feeding the trolls, I’ll let you know how it goes.
Update 4/16 – So how did it go? Well, Rose Eveleth has your recap here, with a lot of interesting points. Thank you to everyone who participated!