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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Saturday, April 20, 2024

All-female Daily Managing Board discusses representation in journalism

With the underrepresentation of women — especially women of color — in executive roles in the journalism industry, what are the impacts of the Daily’s diverse M-Board?

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The Spring 2024 Managing Board, left to right: Marlee Stout, Julieta Grané, Rachel Liu, Arielle Weinstein, Merry Jiao, Isabel Francis and Olivia White (not pictured)

Editor’s note: The Daily’s editorial department acknowledges that this article is premised on a conflict of interest. This article is a special feature for Daily Week that does not represent the Daily’s standard journalistic practices.

The current Managing Board for the Daily is composed entirely of women, with the majority being women of color. M-Board’s representation of these minority groups — which make up such a low proportion of top positions at journals worldwide — prompted an exploration of its impact both at the Daily and in the journalism sphere in general.

Editor-in-Chief Rachel Liu spoke to the representation of women on this semester’s M-Board.

“It is special,” Liu said. “From a historical perspective, it’s a really great place that we’re in. No longer is journalism such a sexist space. … It’s shown how much the field has evolved,” Liu said.

While it’s true that the journalism field has evolved in its inclusion of women, there’s still a considerable gender gap in leadership positions at papers worldwide. According to a Reuters Institute study from 2023, “Only 22% of the 180 top editors across the 240 brands covered are women, despite the fact that, on average, 40% of journalists in the 12 markets are women.”

Liu responded to this statistic, providing her perspective on the lack of women in journalism leadership roles.

“A lot of work that women have done in the field just doesn’t get recognized in a very linear way,” Liu said. “I think [this lack of representation] definitely plays into [the gender gap in leadership] and I think a lot of work at an entry level is less appreciated.”

Charlene Tsai, former production director and current assistant production director, echoed Liu’s sentiments.

“I think a lot of top leadership positions at organizations like a newspaper can be time-consuming and demanding in many different ways,” Tsai wrote in an electronic message to the Daily. “Historically, men have been deemed more suitable for these jobs because ‘women are not as tough.’ It’s so great to see more female representation now at the Daily because it goes to show how we’re just as capable in handling these ‘tough’ responsibilities!”

The current Daily M-Board isn’t the first all-female M-Board in the Daily’s history. The spring semesters of 2010 and 2013 also featured all-female M-Boards. Martha Shanahan, a member of the Daily’s Alumni Council, was the editor in chief of the Daily in spring 2013.

She explained that being EIC of an all-female M-Board was not the only diversity matter at the forefront of her mind during her time in the role.

“We had a lot of other things to worry about,” she said. “We were thinking about the racial diversity of the staff [and] the socioeconomic diversity of the staff.”

Shanahan recognized the need for people of all genders to work in journalism, not just women.

The representation of genderqueer and transgender people in the journalism workforce in general is also quite low, and that has all kinds of effects on how trans issues get covered and peoples’ experiences in newsrooms,” she said. “If anything, that is the big gender issue that I think about and that is on the top of peoples’ minds, rather than the women-men gender divide.”

Caroline Vandis, former associate editor and current alumni liaison, spoke to what it means to have a diversity of genders at the Daily.

“The women that I have looked up to in the Daily are very empathetic leaders,” Vandis said. “I think gender is obviously a construct, … but there’s something really special about working under women. … I think women are always taking into consideration people’s feelings.”

Associate Editor Arielle Weinstein shared similar thoughts.

“Personally, [it’s] just easier to work with [women] sometimes, where I can feel more of a connection,” Weinstein said.

Another former Daily EIC, Julia Shannon-Grillo, spoke to her experience working with women at a leadership level for the Daily. Shannon-Grillo worked on two different M-Boards at the Daily, where she observed the different communication considerations for men and women.

“Sometimes when [electronic messages] come from women, they do tend to be judged as more personal. Whereas when men in leadership send you a mean message, you kind of write it off as, ‘Oh, that’s just, you know, how they communicate,’” she said. “[The female M-Board members and I] would have to tell ourselves, the [men in the] past M-Board wouldn’t have taken nearly as much time to think through this message that we’re sending.”

In response to the current M-Board being entirely run by women, Shannon-Grillo said it’s a “happy accident.”

“Every woman on that board has their job because they were the best person for the role. And, the fact that all of them were women probably means we’re doing a pretty good job making women feel welcomed at the Daily and making sure it’s a healthy environment for them to grow and to become better journalists,” Shannon-Grillo said.

Associate Editor Marlee Stout agreed wholeheartedly.

We’re validating [women’s] expertise … [by saying that] these are people who we feel are good leaders,” Stout said.

Stout emphasized the importance of having female role models in the Daily, highlighting the current EIC she’s working with.

“[Working with Liu provided] somebody to model my leadership style after,” Stout said. “[I thought], ‘Oh, this is a personality style that I can see more closely [resembles] my own.’”

Vandis also shared her thoughts on the significance of role models at the Daily.

“In this sort of professional setting, [having] someone that you see yourself reflected in at a top leadership position, I think is so special and so important,” Vandis said.

Managing Editor Merry Jiao said having women role models in the newsroom “definitely helped” upon entering the Daily, but added that representation was more significant to her.

“What struck [me] more was that there was Asian American representation,” she said.

“There’s definitely some clubs I walk in [and] I’m like, ‘oh, no, no, no, I don’t belong here,’ either because I’m Asian or because I’m female,” Jiao said. “[At the Daily, I thought] ‘Oh, okay, cool. There [are] some people of color here. I can be here too,’”

Managing Editor Julieta Grané also spoke to the presence of people of color on the M-Board.

“On my current M-Board, it’s very exciting that there’s [a] majority [of] women of color,” Grané said. “[Because of] what it represents for journalism in a larger sense and for women in positions of power on campus.”

While Grané appreciates the representation on the M-Board, she also recognizes there’s still work needed to diversify the Daily.

“I don’t think there’s a proportional number of gender minorities in the Daily compared to the Tufts population,” Grané said.

Reya Kumar, former executive opinion editor, also weighed in on the subject of diversity.

For women, we’ve created a pretty equal sort of environment at this point, but there [are] a lot of other groups that maybe don’t feel as welcome in the Daily that we’re really working to … include,” Kumar said.

Shanahan put the responsibility on Tufts to increase diversity.

“Any discussion about diversity on the Daily is also a discussion about diversity about who is at Tufts in the first place,” she said.

The lack of diversity at Tufts is something Daily members are also aware of.

“Tufts is very white,” Kumar said. “I think it would be really cool if we had an all-POC M-Board at some point. … The demographics of Tufts [would need to] change to be more inclusive and [Tufts would need to] have more equal representation of different groups.”

And “[diversity in journalism] is not something the Daily is going to solve, necessarily,” as Shanahan said, what happens in college journalism does matter.

“There is a pipeline from student journalism into real jobs in journalism,” Shanahan said.

She continued, emphasizing “the importance of the other kinds of diversity in the pipeline in general.”

“I know [current Daily members] do a lot of work on trying to get people stipends and making an effort to try to make the masthead more diverse overall,” Shanahan said. “Just the fact that you guys do [a diversity report] and are tracking those kinds of numbers and being transparent about that kind of stuff is huge.”

She recognized how far the Daily has come in the time since she was EIC.

“I’m sure it’s not easy to do, but [the current diversity efforts are] already so far beyond what we would have been capable of or what people in my sort-of era would’ve really thought to do,” Shanahan said.

With the clear vote of confidence from a former EIC, it’s exciting to think of what change could come at the Daily.

Vandis spoke to her hopes for the Daily’s future.

“I think the Daily could be a lot more diverse, but I think we’re doing a better job — I hope — to make it a place where everyone feels comfortable and sees themselves in the higher echelon,” Vandis said.

It’s important to widen this conversation of representation to all members of the Daily, and to recognize the Daily is made up of more than just its M-Board.

“While the M-Board is all women, ultimately, the Daily is this big organization … at every level, there’s people of different genders,” Liu said. “All of [the people on the Daily’s] contributions shape the paper, even if it’s not M-Board-specific gender representation.”

With this said, the current M-Board is determined to make their mark this semester.

“Hopefully, the way that we handle this semester can be ... looked back on [as an example] … regardless of the fact that we’re all female,” Weinstein said. “[We] would like to be known as a capable M-Board … [with] a nice little asterisk: ‘And they were all women.’”

“Whoever you are — woman or gender minority or ethnic minority or whatever — there’s a place for you at the Daily, and if there’s not, create your own place. You can do that,” Grané said.