To coincide with the release of a new research report, “Barriers and Bias: The Status of Women in Leadership,” the American Association of University Women hosted a special panel discussion for Newseum members March 30 in the Newseum’s Walter and Leonore Annenberg Theater. Anna Holmes, founder of Jezebel.com, moderated the conversation with four top female media executives: Edith Chapin, executive editor of NPR News; Susan Glasser, editor of Politico; Susan Goldberg, editor-in-chief of National Geographic magazine; and Elizabeth Plank, senior producer and video correspondent for Vox Media.
The five women on the panel shared their varied experiences and unique perspectives as media professionals and fielded questions from an engaged audience. The liveliest discussions focused on matters of gender and race representation in media, pressure on women to excel in positions of leadership, differing perceptions at the office of working mothers versus working fathers, and, above all, how to improve diversity at all professional levels. Plank expressed a common frustration among the panelists: “I want us to ask for more diversity, but I’m sick of doing it!” she said emphatically.
A central topic of conversation explored the idea of implicit bias – associations or mental connections that people may consciously believe are wrong, but which nonetheless cloud judgment or create subtle preferences for certain genders or races. The AAUW research study included a test designed to shed light on these unconscious associations. Holmes encouraged the panel and audience to take the test, noting that, despite her own experiences, she was “surprised” by what the test showed about her own biases.
Near the end of the program, an audience member asked what success would look like to each of the panelists. Chapin offered a sentiment echoed by the others: “When we can stop talking about it, we’ll know we’ve succeeded.”