Last week, Foreign Policy published a feature on the role of the Academy in foreign policy that asked, among other things, “Where are all the women?” Included with the article was a graph showing that women journalists account for 20 percent or less of the writers at magazines and newspapers covering the economy, global politics, security and national politics. As so often happens with mainstream media debates on diversity, Foreign Policy compounded rather than ameliorated the problem it named by including eight men and only one woman in its panel discussion.
[Editor's Note (3/31/14): The writer of this post did not contact Foreign Policy for comment. We regret the error and apologize to Foreign Policy for the breach of journalistic standards.]
One of the women who could have added to Foreign Policy’s debate is Sarah Kendzior, a writer and scholar of Central Asia. In February, Kendzior was approached by a Foreign Policy editor concerned with the demographics of the magazine’s audience and seeking advice on attracting more female readers. Kendzior recalls, “I gently noted that FP might have an image problem due to their exclusion and marginalization of female writers.” Kendzior suggested that she could write an article on the subject, and Foreign Policy commissioned it. After she turned it in, however, the panel discussion article appeared, and Kendzior learned that her piece had been killed.
The article, “US foreign policy's gender gap,” was published later by Al Jazeera English. In it, Kendzior points to structural economic barriers that exclude women (and people of color) from a field that requires significant economic resources to enter, as well as the disrespect routinely aimed at women. On her blog she added, “The problem in foreign policy is not men—it is misogyny. And it is rampant in journalism as well.”
I asked Kendzior whether she thinks the same dynamics are at play in other fields of journalism with severe gender imbalances. She wrote: “If you asked me to name female journalists covering foreign policy, economics, or national security, I could quickly provide you with an amazing list of accomplished women. But you will rarely see those women treated with the same respect or compensated in the same way as men. The launch of new media websites with poor gender balance indicates that this problem is getting worse. Although I would like to add that discrimination against people of color is an even bigger problem than gender discrimination—both in foreign policy and in intellectual fields in general.”
One of those new outlets is The Intercept, founded by Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras and Jeremy Scahill as the first digital magazine of First Look Media. The Intercept will initially cover the Edward Snowden NSA leaks but plans to expand into a comprehensive news outlet. Like many observers, I was deeply disappointed when The Intercept launched with a staff of twelve that included only three women (Poitras, Liliana Segura, and Marcy Wheeler) and two people of color (Segura and Murtaza Hussain). When First Look announced that Matt Taibbi would be given a digital magazine of his own and The Intercept announced Gawker’s John Cook as Editor-in-Chief, my disappointment turned to frustration. Greenwald continued to promise on social media and in interviews that diversity was on its way, but it certainly wasn’t immediately apparent.