Leadership Training and Community Building for Women Journalists

Women in leadership at the Poynter Institute

Despite making up more than half the population, women account for only 37 percent of staff in U.S. newsrooms, according to the American Society of News Editors (ASNE) 2017 survey.

Too often, newsrooms do not reflect the communities they serve. Newsrooms that lack diversity produce stories that are less fair, representative and dimensional, and they prove to be challenging workplaces for journalists in a minority group. Women, especially women of color, face entrenched power dynamics, lack of representation, and higher rates of discrimination and harassment.

The ASNE survey offers a solution to the lack of gender diversity in American media — newsrooms with female leadership tend to have more women on staff.

The Poynter Institute is dedicated to gender parity in newsrooms, and we tackle the issue through leadership training and community building for women journalists, including:

“If you’re failing diversity, especially with women, you’re failing journalism,” leadership academy alumna and instructor Swati Sharma succinctly said. “Poynter’s program is saving journalism.”

Our commitment to this work began in 2014 with the launch of our first Leadership Academy for Women in Digital Media in partnership with the Online News Association (ONA). Applications grew exponentially each year, with the 2018 program attracting more than 600 applicants for 25 seats. Why? The Poynter women’s leadership training makes a life- and career-changing impact. Two thirds of participants report receiving a promotion or a raise within the first year.

Making Magic: Creating the Cohort

“I didn’t realize magic was happening when I was in the class,” said women’s leadership academy aluma Dhiya Kuriakose. “I realized it two weeks later. And I’m realizing it every day two years later. Those five days are not when your life changes. It’s the experience of those five days that end up changing your life after you’re very far from St. Petersburg.”

We build community in all of our leadership programs, but there is something special about the community of #PoynterWomenLeaders. Women’s leadership academy co-founder Katie Hawkins-Gaar launched The Cohort email newsletter to continue the conversations and connections that started in our women’s leadership academies. More than 6,500 people receive the newsletter twice a month, engaging with stories and tips to thrive in their journalism careers.

Program alumnae also attend meet-ups at ONA’s annual conference, connect constantly on Facebook Groups and coach each other through the grassroots effort, digitalwomenleaders.com

“I’ve done a lot of these leadership-type programs. Poynter’s is by far the one that was most fulfilling,” Swati Sharma said. “’Fulfilling’ is the right word because I gained a sense of confidence and completeness that had been missing previously in my career. It’s really something to be in the room with people who have the same struggles as you and are solving those problems. That was something new that I hadn’t quite experienced.”

Poynter's Women in Journalism Leadership Training

How You Can Support Women Journalists

In response to the program's stellar success and increased demand, Poynter added two more leadership academies and two one-day regional symposiums in 2018. Thank you to Craig Newmark Philanthropies, McClatchy Foundation and Participant Media for supporting our 2018 programming.

In 2019, we plan to have three leadership academies, two symposiums and ongoing content devoted to The Cohort – and we need your help to make them a success. We want to remove barriers for women to participate by keeping tuition low, bringing programs on the road and continuing to bring the world’s top instructors to Poynter.

Sponsor training. 
Endow the program. 
Become Involved. 
Make an individual contribution. 
Subscribe to the Cohort. 


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