Fairygodboss of the Week: Joanne Lipman

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Joanne Lipman

By Fairygodboss

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Joanne Lipman's journalism career began when she read Harriet the Spy at the age of seven. Like Harriet, she began recording observations in a notebook. Flash forward a few decades, and Joanne's resume includes writing and editing at publications including The Wall Street Journal and USA Today. She's also the author of the recently published That's What She Said: What Men Need to Know (and Women Need to Tell Them) About Working Together. Our Fairygodboss of the Week is a role model personally as well as professionally: The mom of two is also a breast cancer survivor.

Fairygodboss of the Week: Joanne Lipman

Author of That's What She Said: What Men Need to Know (and Women Need to Tell Them) About Working Together

New York, NY

At seven years old, I read Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh, about an 11-year-old girl who "spies" on neighbors and writes down her observations in a notebook. I started doing the same thing! And eventually I realized you could make a career out of it...as a journalist.

Tell us a little about your career. How did you get to where you are now?

In college I worked on the school paper, and while commuting to New York City for a magazine internship, I started reading my father's Wall Street Journal—and fell in love with the front page writing. Ultimately I got an internship at the WSJ, which then led to a permanent job as a reporter. I stayed for 22 years, working my way up to Deputy Managing Editor and overseeing creation of Weekend Journal, Personal Journal and the Saturday paper. I loved both journalism and the creative process of inventing new ways of telling stories and reaching audiences. So in 2005, I joined Conde Nast to create a new kind of business magazine, Conde Nast Portfolio. Unfortunately, we launched right before the financial crisis, and it folded in 2009.

I later joined Gannett as Chief Content Officer and Editor in Chief of USA Today and the USA Today Network, comprising the flagship paper plus 109 local newspapers including the Detroit Free Press, Des Moines Register, and Cincinnati Enquirer. While there I also worked on my book on closing the gender gap, That's What She Said: What Men Need to Know (and Women Need to Tell Them) About Working Together. It was just published by William Morrow.

What is an accomplishment that you are proud of?

My kids! Rebecca, Andrew, and my husband Tom are my favorite human beings.

What is a challenge that you've faced and overcome?

I've had plenty of challenges to choose from. On the professional side, Portfolio magazine closed after the financial crisis, and I suddenly found myself without a job for the first time since I was 14 years old! I used the opportunity to take on passion projects, including writing my first book, Strings Attached, a music memoir I co-authored with one of my close childhood friends (and daughter of the music teacher at the center of the story), Melanie Kupchynsky.

On the personal front, I was diagnosed with breast cancer when I turned 40, when my kids were very young. I kept working, through two surgeries, chemo and radiation. Knock on everything, I've got a clean bill of health now. But an experience like that definitely gives you perspective on the daily ups and downs of life.

Who is YOUR Fairygodboss? and Why?

We never worked together, but I really admire Ann Shoket, former Editor-in-Chief of Seventeen magazine and author of The Big Life, who is all in when it comes to empowering a new generation of millennial women.

What do you do when you're not working?

Swim, tennis, read, hang with my kids if they'll let me—and hopefully sleep!

If you could have dinner with one famous person—dead or alive—who would it be?

Ida Tarbell, pioneering female (!) investigative journalist of the early 20th century.

Lighting Round

What is your karaoke song?

Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody."

What is your favorite movie?

The Wizard of Oz or The Sound of Music. A tie.

What book would you bring with you on a desert island?

Anna Karennina. Love it, plus it's really long.

What is your shopping vice? What would you buy if you won the lottery?

Shopping vice: Woodbury Commons! Great outlet stores. If I won the lottery I still would shop the outlets...but I would travel by private plane.

What is the #1 career tip you'd like to share with other women who want to have successful careers like you?

Pursue the path you are passionate about - not what others tell you that you "should" do or "should" want.

Why do you love where you work?

I've loved everyplace where I've worked...and it all comes down to one reason: The people. I love being in a newsroom—it's my favorite work environment. But what makes any workplace great is when you find simpatico colleagues who become friends. You go through up and downs and tough days together, and it bonds you for life.

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I think I'm being mommy-tracked at work and it's incredibly

I think I'm being mommy-tracked at work and it's incredibly frustrating. I'm two months back from maternity leave and putting in the same hours as I used to but I'm getting these subtle signs that I'm not taken as seriously -- ranging from not being asked about wanting to spearhead things to the stink eye when I walk out the door (at the same time I roughly used to leave the office). What should I do?

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What do you feel about women who have to face a step down in their careers after giving time to their newborns and taking a break of at least six months? Did this happen to you too?

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What to do if you face a step down in your career due to the break you took of 6 months to take care of your newborn? Does this happen frequently? Any ideas on how to get a job after this break? Please help! I was working as a Sales Manager in a company where I had to quit as I needed to give sometime to my baby. Now when I'm trying to start working again, I don't get even considered due to the break I took. The HR in these companies advice me to step down in the position and start from senior sales associate or reception. I do have good experience being good at my job and my previous employer have everything good to say about me. What should I do?

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Hi Fairygodbosses! I am writing here on behalf of my mom because I love and want the best for her. She has been working at a non-profit for the last 9 years and has become miserable at work. She wants a career change but doesn't know what she wants to do or how to get there. She is only now making the salary she should be making at 58 years old and I think that holds her back from taking a chance and leaving her company. Do any fairy godbosses here have some advice or resources for a middle-aged woman looking for a career change (and feels like a life change)? How can my mom build her confidence and self-worth to go after what truly makes her happy (or at least start trying to figure it out?) Appreciate any of your thoughts.