Des Moines Register Executive Editor Carol Hunter has never been much of a free thinker.
So I wasn’t surprised when she approached me one day in 2014 to have a heart-to-heart about “the continuing problem” of newsroom gender equality. Known liberal that I am.
“Gender equality is still a big problem here,” Hunter confided in me, thinking she was preaching to the choir. “I’ve got to find a way to do more to advance women in the newsroom.”
Sadly, I’m the kind of old school liberal who thinks feminism is still about equality - not female supremacy. One with an unfortunate affinity for painful truths.
"What nonsense," I blurted out. “Gannett (our parent company) has a female CEO in Gracia Matore and a female chairman of the board in Marjorie Megner. The Register has a female regional publisher in Laura Hollingsworth, a female editor-in-chief in you, two of the three managing editors are female now, and more than half the reporting staff.”
Carol looked hurt.
Why wasn’t I playing along with her politically correct narrative?
Why did I have to have this unfortunate attachment to factual information?
“Shoot,” I continued like the proverbial bull in a china shop. “This didn’t happen yesterday. My class at Columbia J-School in 1990 was 74 percent female.
"Last time I looked equality was 50-50," I said. "We're way past that now. If there’s a gender equality problem in journalism it’s that there aren’t enough men in the field any more."
Cue smoke from the editor's ears.
The notion that women are still under-represented in the news industry is a convenient fiction, which is rooted in the larger social narrative of “women as forever victims.” Like so many modern allegations of gender inequality.
Is there still gender bias in the United States?
Absolutely, but it exists in both directions now. And the vestiges of our sexist past which hurt women are going away quick, fast and in a hurry, while those which hurt men remain.
Hardly a formula for equality.