Management at Florida daily agrees problems exist

WOMEN UNITE TO SHATTER NEWSPAPER'S GLASS CEILING

September 16, 1991|By Jim Lynch | Jim Lynch,Knight-Ridder News Service

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Women at the St. Petersburg Times felt they had been left behind.

They watched as men won key promotions and women advanced to a certain point but rose no higher.

Two months ago, they complained. More than 70 women piled into Chief Executive Andrew Barnes' office. The report they laid on his desk said, in essence, that the women were victims of the so-called glass ceiling, that they could rise only so far at the Times, then watch their careers top out as men's careers prospered.

Mr. Barnes agreed.

The problem isn't unique to the St. Petersburg newspaper. The same thing happens -- in different ways and at different levels of severity -- in other businesses across the country, according to a Department of Labor study released last month. Women and minorities appear to rise to a certain level in corporate America, then advance no further.

But, unlike many other businesses, the Times Publishing Co. has dealt with its problems openly. It has written about them on its own pages several times, and Mr. Barnes has acknowledged the existence of sexual harassment at the paper.

"The person who claims it's not a problem hasn't looked very hard," Mr. Barnes said. "Look at any company you want to name, and you will find it's exactly the same way."

At St. Petersburg, women can point to statistics: Women constitute 30 percent of the newsroom's full-time employees, but only one of the newsroom's top 10 managers. The St. Petersburg Times is Florida's second largest daily. At the state's largest newspaper, the Miami Herald, 44 percent of newsroom employees are women, and 20 percent of top newsroom managers are women.

For newspapers as a whole, 40 percent of all news and editorial jobs were held by women in 1990, according to the Reston, Va.-based American Newspaper Publishers Association. Only 20 percent of the top managers were women. Overall, 39 percent of newspaper employees were women. Twenty-eight percent of executives and managers were.

Times women also pointed to key promotions over the past year: All went to white men.

In the Times newsroom, like most, power is concentrated at the assistant managing editor level and above.

At St. Pete, one of 10 assistant managing editors is a woman. Her domain -- features -- is not usually seen as a proving ground.

Among the other complaints:

* Job openings weren't posted, so workers had to be plugged into a management pipeline to know what positions were about to be filled.

* Women who struggle at jobs are allowed to fail, then are shipped out. Men get more help throughout the newsroom.

* Women managers have to be more than skilled to get ahead. They have to be "graceful" and "charming," a standard men don't have to meet.

* Choice assignments went to male reporters and photographers. For example, two female reporters were kept away from a riot because it was "too dangerous."

"Nobody says we don't like you," said columnist Mary Jo Melone. "They do things that hurt. They promote people who look like them, who have nice ties, penny loafers, a wife and a little baby."

Some remedial actions were fairly easy. A man who issued gross propositions no longer works with the Times.

Here are highlights of the Times' plan:

* It will regularly train supervisors in how to spot and deal with discrimination and harassment.

* News management is including women and minorities in special projects.

* All job openings will be posted before they are filled, so more people will be able to apply for them.

* It will solicit women and minority candidates for job openings.

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