Female journalists make up just 27 percent of top management positions in the industry, but Tasha Stewart wants to change that number.
Stewart, who is the entertainment editor at WCPO in Cincinnati and has been in the industry for 16 years, is one of 28 female journalists selected from more than 400 applicants to attend the ONA-Poynter Digital Women’s Leadership Academy in May.
Here are some of Stewart’s thoughts on getting more women to move up the ranks.
What was your biggest challenge while climbing the ladder to where you are now?
In my previous roles, the biggest challenge was not being listened to because of my age. I was one of the young managers working with an older manager who didn’t take me seriously.
I have since gotten older and have more experience, but I think it’s a twofold challenge: not being listened to by some male managers and not knowing what to do to make myself be heard. I still deal with a lot of male managers. Part of it is learning how to navigate that culture.
Unfortunately, an idea sometimes doesn’t gain traction until certain people say it. I would get discouraged, glossed over, not taken seriously, but I learned how to work the room better. It is a shame we have to do that sometimes.
How did the 2016 ONA-Poynter Leadership Academy for Women in Digital Media enhance your work?
It gave me a whole new support system, helped me better understand myself, how I work, where my strengths are, and what work I needed to do. It has given me a group of women I can bounce ideas off and a safe space to talk about challenges I am going through professionally.
There were moments of clarity where I realized some of the challenges were not only external, but they were also internal. Some come from perception issues, whether it is recognizing what you bring to the table or how to navigate situations. Although we worked at different areas, we discovered that we all experience similar challenges.
What advice would you give an aspiring female journalist? How can women reach milestones faster in their career?
Number one, don’t be afraid to ask questions, don’t be afraid to reach out. So many times I have talked myself out of something when I should have taken the attitude of “What is the worst (thing) that could happen?”
Women have that tendency to talk themselves out of applying for jobs, pitch story ideas — and we delay our path to success. It’s funny, if I had learned what I did at the academy sooner, I would probably be in an entirely different place — not that I don’t like what I am doing, but I would have gotten here faster.
If you are afraid, it isn’t a good enough reason to not do something. It is so much easier now with the elimination of the barrier of entry — there is a ton more access to communication. Relationships are the key to the business. Sources or professionals, don’t be afraid to build a relationship.