160 years in the making

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This morning’s newspapers greeted me with something of a paradox.

When news broke that The New York Times had (finally) named its first female editor, in the form of Jill Abramson, I felt both joy and dismay.

With a daily circulation of over 850,000 and 30 million unique monthly web visitors, the NYT is one of the most widely-read and respected publications in the world. To have a woman at its helm is undeniably a huge leap forward, and will inspire many female journalists.

All well and good. But then, it was back in 1979 that Margaret Thatcher became Prime Minister.  And female leaders currently hold posts in Australia, India and Brazil, among other nations.

Which is why is struck me: why – after 160 years in print – was The New York Times only just appointing its first female editor?

As a PR consultant, I’m used to working in a female-dominated industry.  Alpha-females are par for the course. In our world, women are on a level, if not higher, playing field to men. Women MDs are commonplace – often having forged thriving communications consultancies off their own backs.

Some say it’s down to women’s ‘persuasiveness’ or inherent need to ‘nurture’ that makes us so suited to public relations. I think it’s because women are just as driven, capable and sharp as men.

Jill Abramson will take up her role as executive editor at The New York Times in September. Agreed, this will be a “triumph for women in media”, as former New Yorker editor Tina Brown put it. I only hope it doesn’t take another 160 years for female journalists to fully benefit from the fully-fledged success and influence that female PR consultants enjoy.