When my newsroom cube mate, Jomay, turned to me and said, “Girls have to stick together,” I smiled and did not think much more about it, except that her phrasing reminded me of Cindy Lauper’s, “Girls Just Want To Have Fun.” I was 24 years old, and Jomay, who had significantly more reporting experience, also knew how to navigate the often male-dominated newsrooms of the early 2000s.
So, why did Jomay tell me this? I was working on a complicated news story about military base realignment and closures. I was not—at all—passionate about the story, and she could sense it. Without any prompting from me, she approached my cube and asked if she could help. I was surprised and extremely grateful because had she not helped me, I would have missed my deadline. Being one of the youngest reporters in the newsroom, I felt too insecure to admit I found the writing assignment overwhelming.
Since that time, I have worked with a lot of collaborative, progressive thinkers, both women and men. I have also benefitted from a multitude of mentors, most of them women. However, I’ve also experienced discouraging interactions. When I was a public relations professional in my early 30s, I served on a planning committee. I observed—more than once—female colleagues reporting on their respective departments as some women occasionally rolled their eyes or even whispered. While I hope I didn’t participate, it is possible I did. But why?