Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Barbie 'Computer Engineer' Book Infuriates Parents

So much for empowerment.  Mattel icon Barbie, long known for her independence and career versatility, turns out to be hopeless at computer engineering -- a lucrative career field that still has far too many women in it.  Based on the content of I Can Be A Computer Engineer, Barbie's not going to be one of them.

That's because, in Taylor Lorenz's review of the book, "She is portrayed as an inept programmer who inadvertently plagues her friend’s computer with a virus and can’t fix a bug without help from a man."

Lorenz says parental criticism has harmed sales, but my check of Amazon says the paperback edition of the book, paired with I Can Be An Actress, is temporarily out of stock.  So someone's buying it -- lots of someones, unfortunately.  Or perhaps Amazon has quietly stuck it in a dark corner, where it belongs.

As dispiriting as the insipid content is the fact that the book was written by a woman, Susan Marenco, who has co-authored two other Barbie achiever books, Pastry Chef and Lifeguard.

If girls don't like the book, they can console themselves with a Barbie Computer Programmer doll, who -- of course -- has a pink laptop.

UPDATE NOV. 20:  Mattel has apologized for the content of this book:

and you can suggest improvements to it here:

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Pushback Against Video Game Critics Grows More Toxic

The final frontier for women pushing into all areas of media influence seems to be video gaming.  But in an extreme version of "no girls allowed in the tree house," threats of physical violence, even death, are being leveled against the female rock stars of video game development and cultural critics advocating for improved depiction of women in these games.

The latest victim is Anita Sarkeesian, whose YouTube video, "Tropes vs. Women," documents the history of women as wallpaper and other forms of hypersexualized decoration in video gaming, in which "women exist as passive objects of dominant male desire.... incidental eye candy... to titillate presumably straight male players."  Sarkeesian decodes the visual and technical components of the games to reveal the formula of sexualization that is repeated in game after game. Plots reinforcing that women's primary role is to satisfy the sexual desires of heterosexual males, "set up a transactional relationship in which women are reduced to a basic sexual function."

"It's the essence of what sexual objectification means," Sarkeesian says.

Sarkeesian is making headlines because on Oct. 14, she cancelled a speech at Utah State University after the university received an email warning that a shooting massacre would occur at the event. Utah permits residents to carry concealed weapons and the university said it could not require event attendees to leave their weapons at home.

The hostility toward critics of games has spiraled as the industry has tried to expand its appeal to the growing number of female gamers, engendering anger among die-hard male gamers angry that their "space" is being invaded.  Much of this anger has been directed at female game developers such as Zoe Quinn and Brianna Wu, reported the New York Times. The Entertainment Software Association, the trade association representing games publishers, has protested the vitriol directed at these developers and women who critique game content, but the misogynistic complaints continue.  Now, they've escalated to threats of a massacre.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Legacy Media Big Losers in European Media Analysis

The European Publishers Council (EPC), representing Europe’s leading media organizations, has announced publication of the EPC Global Media Trends Book. And it's not good news for legacy media who've struggled to create a digital presence.

The report provides a detailed survey of the digital media landscape with more than 500 data sets and an in-depth analysis of global digital media revenue and usage trends.

Traditional media models are showing declining relevance, according to the key findings in this year's report.  Here's a sampling:
  • Internet advertising spend is poised to exceed expenditures on TV advertising in many parts of the world before the end of the decade;
  • Investment in technology overtakes product development as priority for efficiency;
  • Lack of talent in emerging areas (technology, internet) is the most cited barrier to growth in media companies 2013 to 2014
  • Native advertising and content marketing are the top priority for marketers;
  • The use of mobile to access the Internet around the world has doubled in one year;
  • E-commerce on mobile and tablets has grown dramatically;
  • Global newspaper industry ad-spend share is expected to drop from 16.9 percent in 2013 to 13.7 percent by 2018;
  • Digital news subscriptions are growing in the double digits since 2013;
  • The 19-35 age group (millennials) consume little live TV compared to their older counterparts;
  • Worldwide, millennials consider the internet, including social media, the most credible news source.
The executive summary of the Global Media Trends Book can be downloaded for free here.

Friday, September 12, 2014

IWMF Target of Malicious Hack; Antagonism Toward Media Women's Advances Suspected

The website of the International Women's Media Foundation (IWMF) suffered a complex brute-force attack Friday, Sept. 5. The website that features the work of the IWMF and promotes the empowerment of women journalists worldwide was defaced and  most of its original content destroyed.
Using password-cracking software, a hacker operating from Turkey attacked, a Wordpress-based website, with over 3,000 login attempts until gaining access to its backend. The hacker replaced the IWMF's extensive website with a single page displaying the message “Hacked - Good Bye Admins” and installed malicious code to block anyone else from logging in. The website was fully restored and functional less than 36 hours after the attack was detected. 
The severity of the breach, as well as the hacker's advanced methods and systematic approach, suggest that this incident was a targeted attack against the IWMF and its mission to strengthen the role of women in the media.
Digital threats against women journalists have become a growing concern in recent years. A study on Violence and Harassment against Women in the News Media, published by the IWMF and the International News Safety Institute earlier this year, shows that nearly 20% of women journalists who participated in the study had experienced tapping, hacking and/or digital security threats. The IWMF has increased its efforts to raise awareness for this issue, in addition to including digital security training in select IWMF reporting fellowships.
About the IWMF
Founded in 1990 by a group of prominent U.S. women journalists, the International Women’s Media Foundation is a Washington-based organization that is dedicated to strengthening the role of women journalists worldwide. The IWMF believes the news media worldwide are not truly free and representative without the equal voice of women. The IWMF celebrates the courage of women journalists who overcome threats and oppression to speak out on global issues. The IWMF’s programs empower women journalists with the training, support and network to become leaders in the news industry. For more information, please visit, follow @IWMF on Twitter, and like IWMF on Facebook.

Please direct all media inquiries and interview requests to IWMF Communications Strategist Anna Schiller,, +1 202 567 2613

Monday, July 21, 2014

We Have Seen the Enemy -- and It is Photoshop

When journalist Esther Honig sent a natural picture of herself (which means hair up, no makeup and no filter) to Photoshop pros and amateurs from more than 23 countries and told them to "make her beautiful," she received multiple versions of herself in return.  Some of these show Honig
very simply retouched -- others were so radical as to change her looks entirely to conform to a certain idea of beauty.  The range is fascinating. The exercise serves as a rather bitter reminder to women that their natural selves are rarely deemed as beautiful as their makeovers.  You can view the results here.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

The Beat Goes On: Forum on Women in News Scheduled June 30 in Washington

The Poynter Institute has announced that it will co-host a national forum in Washington, DC, focusing on the issues surrounding women in journalism and media leadership.

The forum, which will be held in partnership with the National Press Club Journalism Institute, will focus on the current conversation about newsroom culture as it pertains to women, which was invigorated by the firing of New York Times executive editor Jill Abramson.

“I’m excited that Poynter and The National Press Club Journalism Institute are working to move the discussion forward about where women leaders are in journalism today and how to transform and improve their opportunities in the future,” said Tim Franklin, president of The Poynter Institute.

The forum, which will be held June 30 at the National Press Club in Washington, will include an examination of gender and newsroom culture and will encourage positive action to expand the influence of women leaders.

Participants in the forum will try to answer several questions pertaining to the leadership of women in newsrooms, discussing which organizations have been successful in advancing women to leadership positions and whether technology has been harnessed to advance women leaders.

The event will feature panelists from across journalism and media leadership. Speakers include Carolyn Ryan, Washington bureau chief for The New York Times, Susan Goldberg, editor in chief of National Geographic and former president of the American Society of News Editors, Lynette Clemetson, director of editorial initiatives at NPR, Patti Dennis, director of recruiting for Gannett Broadcasting and Anders Gyllenhaal, vice president of news for McClatchy Newspapers.
Additional speakers at the forum include Kelly McBride, Poynter’s vice president of academic programs, and Jill Geisler, senior faculty for Poynter’s leadership and management division, who will moderate.

The forum is an opportunity to advance the conversation that was ignited online and on social media about women’s leadership roles in journalism, said Barbara Cochran, president of the National Press Club Journalism Institute and Curtis B. Hurley Chair in Public Affairs Journalism at the University of Missouri School of Journalism.

“Forty years after women began entering newsrooms in substantial numbers, it’s urgent to address the challenges women face in achieving parity in the newsroom,” Cochran said.

The gains that women made in journalism leadership have stagnated, said Kelly McBride, Poynter’s vice president of academic programs.

“We have to figure out a way to reignite that progress,” McBride said. “We have an obligation to represent our audience. And content audits suggest that journalism as a profession does not fairly represent women as leaders and experts. If we can’t get it right in our newsrooms, it’s going to be hard to serve the public interest on this issue.”

To register for “Closing Journalism’s Gender Gap: A Forum on Women and Leadership," click here.

Monday, May 19, 2014

NYT Editor's Firing Raises Questions About and For Women in Journalism

The woman with the best job in American journalism lost it last week.

Jill Abramson
The reasons for the abrupt dismissal of New York Times Executive Editor Jill Abramson are not entirely clear, but reasonable people can agree that the manner of her firing – without a word of gratitude to the woman under whom the Times won eight Pulitzer Prizes – was particularly harsh.  That has plunged the New York Times into the losing end of a PR debacle that has smudged the ascent of Abramson’s successor, Dean Baquet, the first African American to lead the Times’ newsroom.

Abramson was the first woman to lead the NYT newsroom and the ugliness surrounding her departure is tantamount to an earthquake.  Speculation has ranged from conflict arising from her apparent discovery of being paid less than her predecessor, which the Times has denied, and asking for more compensation; from resisting penetration through the news-business firewall by the business side of the newspaper; and by being a demanding boss who could be brusque, even rude.  None of this rises to the level of a firing offense.

In a thoughtful commentary, former Des Moines Register Editor Geneva Overholser, also the former director of the Annenberg School of Journalism at the University of Southern California, wrote:

“What happened in this case, according to the publisher, Arthur Sulzberger Jr., is that his editor, Abramson, had to leave because of her management style. But, really: Editors are famed for being difficult.  Every journalist has stories about newsroom leaders throwing fits – or, better, potted plants. Hot tempers, arrogance, polarization:  these have practically been job requirements for editors.  I’m not saying this is a good thing.  I’m saying that it’s striking that we’d become sensitive to the unpleasantness only when a woman makes it to the top.”

It hasn’t gone unnoticed how few women are in the top jobs at major American news organizations, or how long it took a woman to get to the top rung at the New York Times. In a letter to Abramson, the president of the Journalism and Women Symposium, said, “We could not let this moment pass before saying loud and clear that we support women in journalism leadership positions, we support efforts to get equal pay for equal work and we support you.”  It was signed “Lauren M. Whaley and the rest of the pushy, brusque, stubborn and abrasive journalists of JAWS.”

Journalism seems to remain a treacherous place for women seeking to move the business to where it needs to go. Why?  Inherent bias? Old boys’ network?  Lingering notions that women are still less capable of covering politics, economics, sports?  Analyses of news content continue to show that women write about these subjects far less frequently than men.  Does this happen by accident?

In a great piece that tackles these issues, “Editing While Female,” Susan Glasser said, “We like to pretend it’s different now, that Hillary Clinton really did shatter that glass ceiling into thousands of pieces. But it’s not true. There are shockingly few women at the top anywhere in America, and it’s a deficit that is especially pronounced in journalism, where women leaders remain outliers, category-defying outliers who almost invariably still face a comeuppance.”

Publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr.’s most recent statement about the matter blamed Abramson for lousy management that was risking the loss of newsroom talent, denying that gender bias played a role.  The blame game goes on. Abramson moved a lot of women into senior positions at the time during her three years as editor.  We’ll see how long it takes for another to get a shot at the executive editor’s chair at the New York Times.  It took 160 years for the first one to get there.