Consider these snippets from a fresh New Yorker profile on Jill Abramson, who’s been in the job as head honcho at The New York Times since early September, taking over from Bill Keller:

  • Four decades ago, women and minorities were second-class citizens at the paper. According to Nan Robertson’s book The Girls in the Balcony: Women, Men, and The New York Times, only 40 of the Times’ 425 reporters were women, and this included not a single national correspondent. There were no female photographers, columnists, or editorial-board members.

And then digest these numbers, quoted in a recent report on women in the media by Sally Jackson in The Australian:

  • Last year, women made up just 4.9% of all directors of media companies, which was down from 8.3% in 2004, according to a survey by the federal government’s Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Agency.
  • Women held 14% of executive management positions in the media industry, which was down from 15.4% in 2004, although still better than the national average of 10.2% across all sectors.
  • A survey of 15 boards of commercial media companies and public broadcasters backs this result, finding 13 of them have between zero and two female directors.
  • The Global Report on the Status of Women in the News Media, put out in December by the International Women’s Media Federation, surveyed 522 companies covering 170,000 employees in 59 nations and found women held just 27% of the top management jobs and news-gathering positions. In the Asia and Oceania region, which includes Australia, women were barely 13% of those in senior management.

It’s not going to be smooth sailing for Abramson. Despite great results from the paywall system so far, the latest report around The New York Times involves slashing 100 newsroom jobs (about 8% of the total) by the end of the year due to a downturn in advertising revenue.

But for now, just over a month in, let’s take a moment to at least admire the view — a female name below the masthead as executive editor of The New York Times.

Peter Fray

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