One best idea: Sexual harassment takes place everywhere. This is one in a series of posts about how various industries can change to stop sexual harassment. What’s your one best idea? Share it here.
Abramson teaches at Harvard University and is co-author of “Strange Justice: The Selling of Clarence Thomas.”
Put more women in charge.
This may sound self-serving coming from the first female executive editor of the New York Times. But having more newsrooms run by women would be a major stride in curbing sexual misconduct in news. I know from my experience leading several newsrooms that women are more likely to confide mistreatment to a female boss, and female bosses are unlikely to look the other way.
During my 40 years in journalism, I had a female boss only once, at the very beginning of my career. At Time magazine in the 1970s, my bureau chief, Sandra Burton, looked out for me in many ways. When I went out on assignments involving powerful or famous men, she warned me to be on guard against what was then called “lechery,” before “sexual harassment” became a familiar term. She mostly laughed off the experiences she had had rising up the ladder in a male-dominated profession, but, looking back, there is nothing funny about them.
There are, of course, men who are terrific bosses and look out for the young women who work for them. When I was a young researcher at NBC News, my boss, Roy Wetzel, warned me away from a correspondent with a history of hitting on young women in the research pool. But in my experience, female bosses are more prone to take decisive action against harassers. At the Times and other places I worked in senior positions, there were situations where the men at higher levels wanted to look the other way in cases of sexual misconduct. I took it upon myself to confront the miscreants and to follow up with human resources.
By the end of my first year as executive editor of the Times, the newsroom masthead of the most senior editors was half women for the first time. But one of the most disheartening trends since I was fired in 2014 is seeing the number of top female editors stagnate. We’re back where we were 10 years ago.