I'm a woman in journalism, and it's no secret that our voices are largely underrepresented in this field (OK, in a lot of fields).
According to “The Status of Women in the U.S. Media 2019 Report” by the Women’s Media Center (WMC), women don't publish nearly as many bylines as their male counterparts. For example, editors of the nation’s 135 most widely distributed newspapers are overwhelmingly male and white, according to the Columbia Journalism Review. In fact, the percentage of white and male workers in newsrooms is higher than in that of the overall U.S. workforce, according to the Pew Research Center.
In other words, women are largely left out of conversations as journalists and sources, even on topics pertaining to them. Just take a look at some of these harrowing statistics in the WMC's infographics below:
So how have I broken down barriers for myself in an industry that too often silences voices like mine? Here are six ways I've learned to ask for what I want — assignments to cover stories that matter to me, rates appropriate for my experience and on par with the industry average, and bylines in publications for which I'd always dreamed about writing.
Regardless of your industry, I hope you can learn from my lessons, too.
Asking for you want isn't always about asking — sometimes, it's about telling.
I've never been shy about sharing my career goals and aspirations with anyone. While some of my dreams may seem elusive, even to me at times, I've found that confidence is key. Believing in myself, and not being afraid to tell the world, has helped me to gain the support of others because they start to believe in me, too. Plus, I'm a big advocate for putting what you want out there into the universe; I feel strongly that, when you do, your desires will manifest in ways you never imagined possible. That's because, suddenly, you discover that ever more people are willing to help you, advocate for you and mentor you on your path to success.
Asking for you what does, however, sometimes require you to directly, well, ask. And sometimes what you don't realize you really want is help — help to get you to a place so you can achieve what you want.
Asking for help can feel uncomfortable, especially when you don't want to come across as incompetent. But I've learned that asking for help when I really need it — after I've exhausted all known possibilities to handle things on my own — has only propelled me forward. Likewise, asking for the advice of a seasoned professional in your field can give you guidance.
Asking for what you want requires you to have people to ask. I find these people in my networks, including my social platforms.
I don't just use social media to post photos of my life or send happy birthday messages to long-lost acquaintances. Rather, I actually engage socially with others in my online social networks, like Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn. I've tapped into these resources to connect with friends, family and connections in the media world.
I use Facebook to share career updates. I tend to use Instagram to engage with other travel writers and reach out to travel brands with which I'd like to work. And I used LinkedIn to connect with professionals like editors for whom I'd like to write.
Keeping in the loop, finding inspiration in other's successes and making connections are three of the most valuable ways I make the most out of social media.
I don't only work to develop online relationships, however. I also make an honest effort to keep in touch with colleagues, editors and other media professionals I've met along the way throughout my career. I make it a point to keep connected with these people, many of whom have become good friends over the years. This is because I feel strongly that regular face-to-face catch-ups are important in maintaining healthy, genuine, empathetic relationships. This way, when push comes to shove, I have these people to lean on for support and advocacy.
Of course, maintaining relationships isn't all about what you get out of it. A genuine relationship with someone is one that works both ways. I'm always happy to lend a helping hand to others who may need it, as well. Because I know what it's like asking for help, I'm always willing to sit down with aspiring journalists, trying travel writers and beginner bloggers to offer any advice I may have for them, connect them with others in my circle who I think may be able to further assist them and share resources.
Not only does helping others warrant good karma (though that's not why you should do it!), but it can also help you answer some of your own questions.
Before asking for what I want, I do my research to make sure that I know what I deserve. I work with clients to set rates with which I'm comfortable, and I've gotten to the point at which I'm OK saying no. I do my homework to understand what's being asked of me (the time and effort that'll go into the job), what the industry average rate looks like, how the average compares to my experience and any other questions that may arise before I make any decision to work with a client or not.
Whether you're a journalist, an investment banker, a UX designer, a sales representative or something else entirely, it's important that you put yourself out there with confidence, connections and credibility.
AnnaMarie Houlis is a feminist, a freelance journalist and an adventure aficionado with an affinity for impulsive solo travel. She spends her days writing about women’s empowerment from around the world. You can follow her work on her blog, HerReport.org, and follow her journeys on Instagram @her_report, Twitter @herreport and Facebook.
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