Women in Media advocates for equality in the media industry

The organization hopes to collaborate with the Panhellenic Association, the Relationship and Sexual Violence Prevention Center, the Women’s Center and the LGBTQ Center.

Last spring, a group of women on campus came to a disappointing realization.

Despite having a renowned journalism school, MU lacked an organization dedicated to women in the media industry. After discussing the concept for a few months, convergence journalism professor Amy Simons and five of her female students took it upon themselves to establish Women in Media.

“It was born because there was a need for it,” WIM Secretary Daniela Vidal said.

The need arises not only from the fact that men outnumber women two to one in media-based careers, but also from the industry’s unfair treatment of women in comparison to men, according to WIM’s website.

“Women are running into issues of cultural and gender bias,” said Simons, who is also the faculty adviser for WIM. “You have a source you’re interviewing that says you remind them of their daughter or grandchildren. Or you’re going out on a shoot and having the person you’re interviewing or shooting photographs for proposition you, or ask you out on a date.”

There also exists a disparity between the types of news that men and women cover, Vidal said.

“Women are just as capable (as men) of covering politics, policy and sports, not just lighter news,” Vidal said.

Open to both undergraduate and graduate students, the group’s main objective is to empower and encourage women who are interested in careers in mass media.

“We want to be a resource to anyone in the field who has any sort of problem or question about being a woman in the media,” said Beatriz Costa-Lima, WIM president and former Maneater staffer. “We want to create a nice strong network of women in the industry, and anyone who’s concerned with the empowerment of women in the industry, so we can have constant dialogue.”

Journalism is only a small piece of the spectrum. Simons listed advertising, marketing, public relations, communications, and computer science as just some of the other media-based fields to which the club is open.

“Media is so all-encompassing,” Simons said. “We want anyone and everyone to feel welcome as part of this group.”

As the group expands its presence on campus, it will connect and collaborate with other organizations such as the Panhellenic Association, the Relationship and Sexual Violence Prevention Center, the Women’s Center and the LGBTQ Resource Center.

“We need to talk about the way things intersect, like how the news experience is different for a lesbian versus a heterosexual woman, or a Latina woman versus a white woman,” Vidal said.

The organization also seeks to involve men in its cause.

“It’s equally important to have men understand what women are experiencing and be able to empathize and speak up when needed,” Vidal said. “Maybe a guy will listen better to another guy calling him out for a sexist remark.”

The club’s creation garnered overwhelming support immediately. In less than a month, it had over 300 Twitter followers and almost 600 likes on Facebook. People both on and off campus have spoken up in support of the group.

“Everyone had the same reaction: ‘Wait, we don’t have a club like this already?’” Costa-Lima said. “So many people not even affiliated with Mizzou reached out. They were really excited about what we are doing and wanted to help.”

Besides Costa-Lima, Vidal and Simons, the club’s executive board of officers consists of Vice President Madi Alexander, Treasurer Katy Mersmann and Outreach Director Alli Ladd.

In order to broadcast its mission, the group plans to hold on-campus events and panel discussions. The group’s first event will occur at 5:45 p.m. Sept. 9, in the Palmer Room at the Reynolds Journalism Institute. The new and current members will get to know each other with snacks and a movie.

“We want to introduce ourselves and spread the word about our organization, and we hope to give a relaxed, laid-back atmosphere,” Costa-Lima said.

Simons said that at the moment the officers are talking about setting up mentorship networks between students and women working professionally in the field. They also want to hold self-defense courses.

At the event next Wednesday, the group will learn more about the goals of its members and use those to make further and more concrete plans.

The club’s founders have high hopes and a great deal of enthusiasm for their cause and its future. The organization will continue to work towards filling the gap between men and women in the media industry.

“It’ll take a lot of educating,” Vidal said. “It’ll take some time, but we can continue to take steps forward.”

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