Women Behind the News
Bloomberg Editor-in-Chief Matthew Winkler talks about how boosting coverage of women and supporting female managers improves the quality of the news.
Two years ago, Bloomberg News founder Matt Winkler began a project to better reflect the role of women in the global economy. About 2,300 Bloomberg journalists are taking part -- adding women's voices to their stories, meeting influential women on their beats and understanding women as consumers, executives and voters. "Something as important as this had to be universal,'' Winkler says.
Bloomberg News also is focused on its female leadership, supporting paths to management for reporters and editors in more than 70 countries. Bureaus including Accra, New York, Toronto, Madrid, Jerusalem, Paris, Karachi, Melbourne and Hanoi are led by women (see photos on the right).
Winkler joined the board of the IWMF in 2010. He spoke to Lisa Kassenaar, a former Wall Street reporter and senior writer for Bloomberg Markets magazine, who heads the Bloomberg News women's initiative as editor-at-large of Global Women's Coverage.
KASSENAAR: Why is it so important, as Bloomberg News grows, to focus on women's roles in the global economy?
WINKLER: We are journalists because we are committed to revealing the world as it is, as it is unfolding.
One thing I encountered again and again as Bloomberg News evolved was the relative absence of women authorities in our markets reporting. I said to myself that this can’t possibly be right, and it can't go on. We need to be conscious of what we are writing every day, and of the people in our stories who are quoted.
Wall Street is full of mythology, especially about male dominance. So, given that that is a subject that we at Bloomberg especially write about, it was especially important that we noticed.
The other part of this was ‘OK, who is leading this news organization?’ I became aware there should be a much greater role for women in every aspect, from reporting to editing to managing teams to leadership.
Finally, one of the unsettling surprises, wherever we go in the world, is that we see poverty. And whenever we start asking questions, we find that wherever poverty is greatest, the gender gap is widest. That’s a big picture story that we can't escape, and that we must report on.
KASSENAAR: This initiative is designed for all Bloomberg journalists to take part, as opposed to having a ‘women’s team' focused on these issues. Why keep it so broad?
WINKLER: E Pluribus Unum. Probably my favorite characterization of the U.S. is that wonderful ‘out of many, one.’ If you want to get anything done that really lasts and is respected and embraced, it has to be joint. It has to be collaborative. Something as important as this had to be universal.
KASSENAAR: Bloomberg has produced several thousand stories in the past two years recognized as part of this initiative. Which have had the most traction?
WINKLER: There are many, but a handful reflect the importance of what we are doing.
There is this great event called the Masters golf tournament, and we reported exclusively that the female CEO of IBM, which happens to be a sponsor, would be excluded from wearing the uniform of the tournament as a member of the club hosting it. We went to great lengths to point out how ridiculous this is, and yet our effort initially was met by indifference. There were other news organizations that jumped on this immediately, for the same reason that we did. The good news is that, in the same year, change came.
Another was about this wonderful iconic company that defines who we are in the 21st century called Facebook, and an effort by our reporters to show the relative absence of women on the board in a leadership role. Again, I think as a result of this reporting, it prompted a lot of soul searching there and elsewhere. The outcome was for the better.
Also, one of the most important aspects of the so-called Arab Spring was 'what does this mean for women'? Reporting out that question produced more very important stories.
KASSENAAR: Internally, you have been working to bolster the role of women as news decision makers and managers. What's your thinking on encouraging their career paths and supporting their goals?
WINKLER: You have to have role models everywhere. They can't be few and far between so that they are exotic.
The numbers part is important in all of this -- if 50 percent of the population is men and 50 percent is women, then it stands to reason that leadership should reflect that. That is the ideal, of course, not the reality, but knowing that’s where we want to go motivated us.
We try to do it at entry level -- what's the percentage of women who are joining Bloomberg News and is it paring what has been a historical deficit? And the answer fortunately is yes. Are we sufficiently promoting women as team leaders? Are we sufficiently promoting women as managing editors?
A very important idea is instilling ambition, confidence and initiative. You want to provide positive reinforcement so that people who start out doing great work think of themselves not as just great reporters, but they think of themselves as leaders.
You can't do it all in a day, but if you get the process right, it starts to happen more often than not.
KASSENAAR: Is there anything about the women's project that has been a surprise to you? How has your involvement with the IWMF altered your perspective?
WINKLER: It shouldn't be a surprise, but it is a surprise how much joy this initiative has brought to Bloomberg News.
Since we started it, we just have had a news culture that is much richer. We have had hundreds of stories that have proved to be 'most read' and that wouldn't have been attempted had we not done this. The product we create is much better. There are all these wonderful creative people doing amazing things, who I dare say wouldn’t be doing them at all or as much if we hadn't attempted this.
That speaks to all of what the IWMF is trying to do. It's really entirely consistent and symbiotic.
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October 15, 2012