Let’s Get Loud: Isn't It Time Women’s Voices Got Equal Play in the Media?

We’re teaming up with the OpEd Project to empower women to get their opinions and expertise into the public arena.

Equal pay.  Sexual harassment. The glass ceiling. The Mommy Track/Daddy Track disparity. Sexual assault on our college campuses.  The double whammy of ageism and sexism in the workplace….The list goes on and on.

In a perfect world, they wouldn't be viewed as "women's issues", but rather ‘society's issues".  To be fair, there are some people who do see it that way.  But not enough men or women see these and many other "women's issues" as topics that should be of primary importance in our country's public discourse.  

That fact hit home for me recently as I watched the coverage of Senator Kirsten Gillibrand's new book, "Off the Sidelines," play out in the media.

Senator Gillibrand's book has much to recommend it.  In it she shares candid personal stories, including a frank discussion of the casual sexism and sexual harassment directed at her by some of her male colleagues in the U.S. Senate.

Of course, that revelation provoked a firestorm of debate and commentary in the news media.  What caught my attention was a discussion among journalists in which they all agreed that they were not surprised to learn of her experience.

MSNBC anchor Andrea Mitchell had this to say, "We all have our stories of whom you would not get on an elevator with." 

What?  Really?

If sexual harassment among our elected representatives is common knowledge within the Washington press corps, why have they not been covering that story?  If muggings were common in the US Senate, would it be acceptable for journalists to keep silent and just avoid getting in the elevator with the perpetrator?

One of the reasons why "women's issues" aren't taken as seriously as they should be is because the gatekeepers just can't conceive of them as issues that warrant serious attention.  So we have national news correspondents shrugging off sexual harassment in Congress as a ‘fact of life', and nothing ever changes.

It took one woman, sharing her personal story, to bring the issue to a national conversation.  Clearly we need to get many more of these voices and stories from outside of the mainstream media into our public discourse, if we want to change the conversation. 

The Op-Ed Project

The Op-Ed Project is an organization that exists for just that purpose.  This social venture's mission is to bring underrepresented voices, especially women, into the public arena. They offer seminars in op-ed writing & speaking, connect participants with a network of highly experienced media mentors, and channel those newly empowered voices to editors and producers at major media organizations. 

And they've produced great results.  In their own words, here are some highlights,

"Since The OpEd Project began in January 2008, over 3,000 women experts have come through the program, producing hundreds of op-eds in major (over 50,000 readers) media outlets, as well as thousands of pieces in smaller media in print, online, on radio, and television. Op-eds by women experts in The OpEd Project community have conservatively reached tens of millions of readers."

Some OEP Success Stories:

  • LaDoris Cordell, a retired Superior Court Judge, published an op-ed about gay marriage and the black vote in Salon.com.  On the strength of that piece, she was booked on CBS, ABC and BBC World News.  She has since published in a variety of regional and national media outlets,. 
  • Bess Kargman, 22, felt she wasn’t knowledgeable enough to write about anything when she attended her first OpEd Project session. Two weeks later, Bess' op-ed on plagiarism in the college admission process ran on the front page of the Washington Post Sunday Outlook section. It was the most emailed article of the day. 
  • Charlotte Fishman, an attorney who participated in a brief filed in support of Lily Ledbetter in the U.S. Supreme Court, published an op-ed in the Los Angeles Daily Journal. Her article was used to brief Congress and distributed by the National Employment Lawyers Association.
  • After her op-ed on the mortgage crisis ran in The Denver Post, Manisha Thakor was repeatedly cited in the New York Times, was booked on CNN & CNBC, and now appears regularly as a finance expert on television.

Earlier this year, I participated in the Op-Ed Core Seminar, held in San Francisco.  I came away from that experience with a wealth of tools and resources that I can now use to amplify the issues I care about. 

Joanne and I feel that the Op-Ed Project's mission is important, even urgent, and one that fits well with our own here at WHAT NOW WHAT NEXT.  We want to support the many women who could truly make an impact if their voices, ideas and stories reached a wider audience.  So, bringing the voices and stories of the women in our audience together with their training resources will be the focus of an ongoing partnership between WNWN and the OpEd Project

In the coming months, we'll work with the OpEd Project to highlight the success stories of some of their program alum, and feature some of the key tools and resources they share in their seminars.  And next year, we'll select a number of women to sponsor at one of the Core Seminar sessions that the Op Ed Project offers in cities across the country.  

So stay tuned!  

Join the Conversation 

What do you think about the balance of women’s voices in the media? 

Have you thought about speaking out on an issue you care about? 

If you have, what was the experience like for you?  What impact did you have? 

And if you haven’t, what stands in your way?