Fifteen years after the first woman editor of a post-war national news-paper was appointed, there are still only two – Rebekah Wade and Tina Weaver – and the glass ceiling has barely been scratched by women journalists.
Where magazines provide an easier road to the editor’s and publisher’s chair for women, boardrooms are still largely closed to them, a London Press Club and Women in Journalism seminar heard last week.
And, incredibly, they are still likely to be the only woman at meetings to decide on the launch of magazines and newspaper supplements for women.
But the message that came through strongly from the panel – Lorraine Candy, editor of Cosmopolitan, Kath Brown, associate editor of Marie Claire, Eve Pollard, former editor of the Sunday Mirror and Sunday Express, and Amanda Platell, former acting editor of the same papers – was that the glass ceiling should be ignored and women should pursue their goals relentlessly.
"It’s not something successful people dwell on," said Brown, who edited Red. "Publishing is great if you want to be an editor or a publisher but if you want to go further, if you want to be one of the big guys who make the big decisions then it’s bloody tough for women."
Brown said she hated it when women said being successful was "all down to luck". "If you get to the position you are in, it’s taken a lot of hard work. Women don’t value themselves enough. We don’t ask for promotion or the big salary. By not making a noise we are very often passed over for the ‘Big I Am’ demanding a big salary and a flash car."
Candy described her job as "incredibly tough. I manage a team of 40 people and a budget of well over £1m a year. I have to handle advertisers, be aware of how to make extra money for the magazine and bring it in on budget. Yet if I wanted to go farther on the business side I think it would be much harder. But you have to ignore that and push forward."
Platell said it had taken her a long time to realise the more she was herself the better she was as a journalist.
"I didn’t have to be a ball-breaker."
She urged women journalists to mentor, to help each other professionally and advised them to learn as many skills as they could to make themselves more valuable.
Pollard warned: "You have to ask, ‘do I really want this lifestyle?’. When you are an editor, there is no other life; it’s 12-14 hour days as a matter of course. You need to be honest with yourself about how much of your life or your children you want to give up.
"There is no civilised way to do these big jobs."
By Jean Morgan