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Women, you'll likely die before there's gender parity among leaders

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Most women working today will not live to see the day that women reach parity with men in leadership roles in business, politics and more.

That won't happen for 71 years, according to a new report.

The Women's Media Center report, released this week, on the status of women in media takes a close look at women’s present role in news, television, tech, entrepreneurship and social media, and their findings are bleak. The report sums it up: “Progress is slow.”

So slow that women won't have equal footing with men in leadership roles in politics, business, entrepreneurship and nonprofits until 2085, according to the report.

So slow that a report card on the hiring of women in sports media shows multiple "Fs."

And so slow that, according to the report, women had the fewest speaking roles in movies in 2012 than in any other year since 2007.

This report "really gives you the whole story for women in media across the board, and the news is bad news, it’s hard. We are not anywhere near gender-blind parity,” Julie Burton, president of the Women’s Media Center, told the Los Angeles Times on Wednesday.

Burton said for this report, the third annual for the organization, they focused on three key areas: women in media, women of color in media and women in sports. It's the organization's biggest and most thorough report to date, she said, adding that female representation is failing on almost every platform.

Burton said by putting out the report and all of the data, “we are telling a story of women who are part of every story but by and large are not writing the stories.”

The most troubling revelation from the report, she said, is the utter lack of diversity in sports journalism.

According to the center's findings, 90% of sports editors and reporters are white and male. 

Of the 183 sports talks radio hosts on Talkers magazine’s “Heavy Hundred” list, two were women. That's 1.09%. Neither of them made the top 10.

“When 90% of the people in sports journalism field are white and male, that’s a problem,” Burton said.

It’s not that women don't care about sports. As the report notes, women make up 45% of NFL fans, according to the most recent available data from Scarborough Research. And 33% of the NFL TV audience is women, Nielsen stats show.

For Burton, this women and sports missed connection is a big missed opportunity for advertisers and news organizations. “[Women] are big consumers and you would think with the ad money the sports industry has, that there would be a bigger place for women in journalism.”

But with the data in this report, Burton said, women have a roadmap to change. “You can’t change anything," she said, "you can't try to fix anything, until you have the data and the facts.”

Part of that change, says entrepreneur Reshma Saujani, is women getting organized.

“We need to do what we can as women to really elevate our own leadership," she said, "because as we can see by this report, it’s not being done for us.”

Saujani is the founder and chief executive of Girls Who Code, a group that teaches and equips young women to pursue opportunities in computing. She said she saw first-hand the gender divide that permeates media during a run for Congress in 2010.

Women "tweet more, we Facebook more, in some ways we own the Internet," she said, "but we’re not on the other side really building and creating content.”

Part of Saujani’s solution is having women take more responsibility over their own futures, along with being more supportive of other women.

“We’re the majority voters in the ballot box. If we vote for women and choose to do that, we can change those leadership numbers.”

Women in leadership is key to changing misperceptions and stereotypes, Saujani said.

“The fact that there is still a Barbie that says ‘I hate math’ or I could walk into a Forever 21 and buy a T-shirt that says ‘Allergic to algebra,’ when we get more women in those leadership positions, we are going to see less of those negative stereotypes.”

Saujani has hope, however. She says young women today are more sympathetic to the “sisterhood” in general.

“We have to really teach the sisterhood and teach that promoting one another, elevating one another, supporting one another is almost a requirement, and that when you do that, you will feel the benefits of that yourself.”

Emily Spangler looks to be carrying out Saujani's hopes.

The Illinois 15-year-old is the co-director of ProgressWomen.com, a website she founded with Missouri state Rep. Stacey Newman that promotes progressive politics, feminism and encouraging women of all ages to get involved in politics.

Spangler, a high school sophomore, hopes to run for political office one day. She said she had previous generations of women to thank for providing direction.

“More women of older generations are realizing the role that they are playing for my generation," she said. Those women are working "to have a voice for us, and to lead for us. I think there is more hope for us.”

There are also bright spots amid the bleak outlook on women in media, places where women are edging forward -- for instance, the number of women in radio news jumped 8% from 2012 to 2013, narrowing one of the widest gender gaps in the news industry.

“We are in a changing world with changing demographics,” Burton said, adding that it behooves everyone to “take a look at who we have at the table making decisions and writing the stories and telling our stories.”

[For the record, 4:50 p.m. Feb. 20: A previous version of this post referred to Reshma Saujani as the co-founder of Girls Who Code. She is the founder and chief executive. Also, on some references, her last name was spelled Suajani. It is Saujani.]

@Sleasca

Stacey.Leasca@latimes.com

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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