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Jan. 23, 2020, 10:36 a.m.
LINK:  ➚   |   Posted by: Joshua Benton   |   January 23, 2020

Gender representation at the very top of the journalism pyramid has been deeply unequal since…forever.

At The New York Times, the CEO, the publisher, the top editor, and the No. 2 editor are all men. Only one woman has been the top editor in the paper’s history, and that did not end well. The three leading candidates rumored to be battling to be the next top editor? All men.

Still, one female top editor in 169 years is somehow a better record than The Wall Street Journal or The Washington Post, which have never had a woman in charge of the newsroom. At the Post today, the top editor and two of the three managing editors are men, as is the publisher/CEO. (Katherine Graham left active management all the way back in 1991.) At the Journal, the top editor, the No. 2 editor, and the publisher/CEO — all dudes.

So it’s been really interesting to see substantial progress on this front across the pond in the U.K. Okay, not in all U.K. media, but in two places in particular: The Guardian and the Financial Times.

The Guardian has women throughout top management. Its editor-in-chief is Katharine Viner; two of her three competitors for the job five years ago were women too. It just named Annette Thomas as its new CEO. While I’m sure women who work there would have legitimate complaints, it nonetheless stands out among its peers.

But you might expect the liberal Guardian to be an outlier, given its editorial values. Less expected would be the FT, which after all covers the still-extremely-male world of global business. Not to mention that it was bought four years ago by the Japanese publisher Nikkei, and Japanese business culture is even more male than those of the U.S. or U.K. (Three-quarters of Japanese companies have zero female senior executives.)

Still, the FT has done perhaps the most persistent work over the past few years to bring women in — into management and into its audience. (Our Laura Hazard Owen has written about the audience efforts a couple of times.)

Last week, Roula Khalaf officially took over as top editor, the first woman to hold the position in 131 years. Of its 11 top leaders, five are now women. In 2016, women made up 34 percent of its global management group; now that’s 45 percent. The FT requires that the shortlists for all job openings be 50/50 male/female “to ensure inclusive recruitment practices.” 51 percent of the paper’s managers are women.

The reason I’m bringing this all up is that Khalaf just announced that Janine Gibson, the former Guardian and BuzzFeed editor, has been named the FT’s head of digital platforms and projects. She also promoted Renée Kaplan to head of digital editorial development. Terrific choices both, and only the latest sign of the progress that’s been made in promoting women at the FT.

Again, the FT’s not perfect, and it still has a ways to go on issues including its gender pay gap. But it’s worth highlighting here precisely because it’s not the first newspaper you’d expect to be leading the way on gender representation. They’ve shown that, if an organization puts its mind to it, it can get a lot closer to equal representation in a short period of time. And that it’s the FT — one of the very smartest news publishers when it comes to digital innovation and revenue — should be a sign that it’s a good move for the business as well.

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