NPR Bucks Media Boys’ Club Trend

Even though more than 70 percent of journalism grads over the past decade have been women, the media business is still mostly a boys’ club. As we told you last month, a recent Women’s Media Center study found that less than a quarter of media jobs are staffed by women. Perhaps the lone exception to the rule? NPR. Nearly half of NPR’s staff are women and women are in charge of five of the top seven news programs. The Daily Beast/Newsweek‘s Jesse Ellison traces NPR’s equity in hiring back to the 70’s, when NPR jobs paid so poorly that women were the only journalists willing to take the jobs.

The inadvertent result was a roster of young female talent now considered among the most respected names in radio: Totenberg, Cokie Roberts, Linda Wertheimer, and Susan Stamberg, a group affectionately known as the “Founding Mothers.”…

According to staffers, it’s the Founding Mothers themselves who are responsible. “Mentoring” can sometimes seem like a meaningless buzzword, particularly in a competitive news environment. But at NPR it’s serious. “This is how you get ahead in the media world—by helping each other out,” says Cornish, who is now, at 32, the network’s youngest anchor. “I would not be here if all those people did not take an interest in my career. That’s just the fact of it.”

Good on NPR and its “Founding Mothers.” Still, how sad is it that in the best 21st century model of gender equality in American media, women still are on the short end of the 50/50 divide? That’s not a shot at NPR, of course. They have far and away the most equitable hiring record in the old media world. It’s just interesting that even in a media entity that was largely built by the efforts of female journalists, women are still in the minority.