By Ilina Ghosh for the Ryerson Journalism Research Centre
The large number of young women entering journalism today are well positioned to challenge sexism in the newsroom, veteran journalist and author Vivian Smith told about 100 aspiring reporters earlier this month.
“Just your sheer numbers mean that you’re going to have more influence in newsrooms,” said Smith, who spoke at the Ryerson University School of Journalism about her recent book,Outsiders Still: Why Women Journalists Love – and Leave – Their Newspaper Careers.
“When I was doing this, [I was] one woman [at a table with] seven or eight men and it was all very interesting to them, but not that important. So keeping up the conversation with your numbers, with your mass, is really important and I hope that you do that.”
Smith got her first job in the women’s department of the St. Catharines Standard when women were just getting started in mainstream journalism.
“We were in a little tiny room that was behind the bathroom and we had the exciting task of writing up weddings and recipes and trying to bully our feminist features into the women’s pages.”
By 1980, she was at The Globe and Mail, where she would spend 14 years as a reporter, editor, columnist and manager – and have two children.
Smith says it was an era when women journalists were “sidelined, ignored and scrutinized” at the Globe and other newspapers. Efforts by women at the Globe to lobby for child care services remains one of her “favourite failed adventures,” she said.