Last year, I interviewed Montana gubernatorial candidate Whitney Williams and asked her about how she would use her position as a woman in the governor’s seat—the first since 2005. She talked about not only what it meant to her, but what it could mean for others.
“If you see it, you can be it,” Williams said, reviving anecdotes of moments she’d shared with young, aspirational girls and women on the campaign trail.
I work in journalism, one of the many industries that men dominate in America. An Oct. 28 study released by the Women’s Media Center found that, overall, men receive 65 percent of news bylines and credits in the nation to women’s 34 percent.
In print news, the gap is even wider. Similar reports from recent years also found that less than 8 percent of print newsroom staff are women of color. Numbers like this make it harder to see what you can be.
Harder, though not impossible.
Straight out of college, I didn’t need a report to tell me the reality of the journalism industry. Between cautionary tales from professors, my own experiences as a reporter and a general understanding that as a woman I’m four times as likely to experience gender discrimination at work, I knew what I was stepping into.
And yet, I found hope. I work in a newsroom where 75 percent of our reporters are women, and more than 50 percent of the staff at Outlaw Partners, publisher of EBS, are women.
This doesn’t mean the job is a utopian bubble of infallible equality; it’s easy to see, to feel, when my fellow female reporters and I are treated differently than our male colleagues—by a source, sometimes even our readers. But we’re here, and that’s a start.
It’s a start, though with a long road ahead. Because it’s not enough to simply show women in the field. We need to show not only their success but also acknowledge their struggles; celebrate their achievements and make visible what they endured to arrive there.
The truth is, yes, these statistics are not in our favor. But we still deserve to be here. Women belong in journalism. To me, that’s what “If you can see it, you can be it,” means.
Gone are the days where all the reporters delivering the news to the U.S. look like only 30 percent of its population. Underrepresented demographics working in newsrooms open a new door to truth. Women belong in journalism.
I feel grateful to the executive staff at Outlaw Partners for recognizing this and making a commitment to make space for women to report Big Sky’s local news. I feel grateful for my editor-in-chief, Joe O’Connor, for being empathetic to our challenges. I feel grateful to my fellow female EBS reporters, Gabrielle Gasser and Tucker Harris, for withstanding harsh realities in pursuit of a more inclusive future. And above all, I feel grateful for the women that fought to be visible so that young reporters like myself could believe that women belong in journalism.
One of my greatest hopes in this work is that I can be that woman for someone else. And that Tucker and Gabrielle can be those women for someone as well.
-Bella Butler, Senior Editor