Three young women editors at Newsweek—Jessica Bennett, Jesse Ellison and Sarah Ball–have written a brave and candid piece calling out sexism at the magazine and in the publishing industry as a whole. They ask how much has changed since 1970, when a pioneering group of women Newsweek editors filed a landmark gender-discrimination suit for, among other things, being routinely called “dollies” by their male bosses.
In countless small ways, each of us has felt frustrated over the years, as if something was amiss. But as products of a system in which we learned that the fight for equality had been won, we didn’t identify those feelings as gender-related. It seemed like a cop-out, a weakness, to suggest that the problem was anybody’s fault but our own. It sounds naive—we know—especially since our own boss Ann McDaniel climbed the ranks to become NEWSWEEK’s managing director, overseeing all aspects of the company. Compared with the NEWSWEEK dollies, what did we have to complain about? “If we judge by what we see in the media, it looks like women have it made,” says author Susan Douglas. “And if women have it made, why would you be so ungrateful to point to something and call it sexism?”
Yet the more we talked to our friends and colleagues, the more we heard the same stories of disillusionment, regardless of profession. No one would dare say today that “women don’t write here,” as the NEWSWEEK women were told 40 years ago. But men wrote all but six of NEWSWEEK’s 49 cover stories last year—and two of those used the headline “The Thinking Man.” In 1970, 25 percent of NEWSWEEK’s editorial masthead was female; today that number is 39 percent. Better? Yes. But it’s hardly equality. (Overall, 49 percent of the entire company, the business and editorial sides, is female.) “Contemporary young women enter the workplace full of enthusiasm, only to see their hopes dashed,” says historian Barbara J. Berg. “Because for the first time they’re slammed up against gender bias.”
Read the rest on Newsweek.com. To the magazine’s credit, this will run in the March 29 print edition.
UPDATE: The three have started a blog called Equality Myth on young women, sexism and the workforce.
ABOVE: November cover of Newsweek; one of two 2009 Newsweek covers to use the line “The Thinking Man.”