Cracking the glass ceiling in journalism: Career advice from 5 news executives

Photos courtesy of The Canadian Journalism Foundation

Takeaways from “Ceiling, Cracked: News Women in Charge:”
Discussion hosted by The Canadian Journalism Foundation

Jennifer McGuire

1. Tell people about your ambitions

Jennifer McGuire, General Manager and Editor in Chief, CBC News

“Start telling people that you want it, I would say is ‘step one.’ And owning your own ambition around that. And asking them how you get there. … Just start laying the pathway for where it is you want to go.”

“And go have the conversation. Say, ‘I want to be in Beijing doing this. What are my steps to getting there?’ And start selling your own story around that because I can tell you that every recent posting was many, many conversations before the posting happened.”

Wendy Freeman

2. Get a mentor/sponsor

Wendy Freeman, President, CTV News

“Lloyd Robertson. I was lucky. I had the most trusted man in Canada as my mentor and my sponsor. He actually handpicked me to come and be his executive producer many years ago. And he really helped me rise in the network. And I have to say, he was not only my mentor, but he was my sponsor as well. I think he had a lot to do with me becoming president.”

“I know a lot of females have had female mentors. I never did because there weren’t any females in the higher positions when I was there. There wasn’t anyone. There were only men. He was my mentor and my sponsor. And I think it’s really important for women to have sponsors and mentors.”

Elena Cherney

3. Look to your peers for support

Elena Cherney, Canada Bureau Chief, The Wall Street Journal

“If you’re in an environment, as many of us have been, where your mentors are primarily male, I think one of the things I’ve found is that I had a lot of support from women on my team. And I felt that particularly in the ROB (Report on Business). There were some fantastic women.”

“I think you get a certain kind of support – that if you’re not going to get that necessarily above you because it just doesn’t exist, you might get that around you – and that’s very, very important.”

Jane Davenport

4. Offer support after a promotion

Jane Davenport, Managing Editor, Toronto Star

“I think promoting can actually be relatively easy. But there’s also the support that happens after you promote, because I think it’s very easy to push somebody past where they feel like they should be, and then just walk away and feel that you’ve made a great hire, or you’ve made a great move for your newsroom.”

“I think if somebody’s feeling a little bit nervous or a little bit like they’re being pushed beyond their limits, it’s your responsibility as a leader – or in my case, sponsors or mentors – to keep going back to that person, and make sure that they’re coping, and make sure that they have the support that they need.”

Dawna Friesen

5. Don’t let anyone change you

Dawna Friesen, Anchor and Executive Editor, Global National

“I have now whittled down my hair and makeup process – from what was originally, when I was hired, an hour – to about 15 minutes. And I just kind of whip in there and get out because I want to be on phone calls with reporters. I want to be involved in all the promos. I want to be doing the work, not sitting there in the makeup room. It just drives me nuts.”

“If there are people trying to change you, don’t let them change you. Don’t start undermining your own confidence. Just go with your gut and your instinct and believe in yourself, and that’s going to get you through. Don’t listen to all the noise.”

The event was held on the 54th floor of the TD Bank building in downtown Toronto. Check out this amazing view:

TD building view CN Tower

This was a wide-ranging discussion. I’ve focused on quotes about ambition, mentorship, and self-confidence. Other topics included: Motherhood, childcare, deadline pressures, and more. You can watch or listen to the entire talk on The Canadian Journalism Foundation‘s website.

Photos by Chris Young for The Canadian Journalism Foundation.
Used with permission of The Canadian Journalism Foundation.

Disclosure: I was able to attend this event for free, as I work for one of the companies mentioned (CTV).