Leisa: Hello, I’m Leisa Holland-Nelson and welcome to another edition of Women Mean Business where we’re going to take you up close and personal with extraordinary women doing extraordinary things. I’m very excited to be coming to you today live from the Greater Houston Women’s Conference for 2015 and my special guest is Lynn Povich, author of The Good Girl’s Revolt. Lynn spent 25 years at Newsweek and was their first female Senior Editor. She was Editor in Chief of Working Woman magazine, one of my favorites, and Managing Editor of MSNBC.com. Lynn, welcome to Women Mean Business.
Lynn: Oh thank you do much Leisa, I’m delighted to be here.
Leisa: I mean, I just said a huge mouthful without saying anything about your extraordinary career so I would love for you to tell us about your journey. Tell us about getting to MSNBC.com because I know there were some unbelievable things before that.
Lynn: Exactly. In fact the Newsweek experience was the one that really formed me as it often does for all of the women, which is the first experience when we get into the workforce.
Lynn: And I started as a secretary for Newsweek and it only occurred to us around 1969 that somehow all the women were researchers or fact checkers, which I had then become, and all the writers and reporters were men. And it wasn’t until we realized that it was illegal to segregate jobs by gender that we decided to file a class action suit against Newsweek for sex discrimination. It was the first gender discrimination lawsuit in the media and after we sued women all over the media from NBC and AP and the New York Times all filed suit.
Leisa: I’m curious; do you remember who thought of it? Who thought to identify that it wasn’t legal?
Lynn: Yes, I remember very specifically. One of our friends, a researcher who was a Phi Beta Kappa from Smith and the Marshall Scholar and was fact-checking at Newsweek – her career – had a conversation with a woman lawyer and when she said tell me about your job and Judy told her that we were the researchers and they were the writers she said that’s illegal. And it was only when we realized that it was illegal that we realized that we had to do something about it because it was now a moral issue.
Leisa: I remember it. I mean I remember it all happening, I was not really working yet but I remember like the buzz of it all and all of a sudden thinking about things differently as a young woman myself. Even before I was entering the workforce like thinking that I was going to have opportunities.
Lynn: Well I wrote The Good Girl’s Revolt, which is the story of our lawsuit and also about young women today at Newsweek, because I wanted to talk about that moment where those of us who are post-war and raised to believe that women had certain roles in society finally said wait a minute, there’s something wrong with this. And each woman has come to it through her own experiences and I thought that was really important.
Leisa: Why did you leave Newsweek and move on?
Lynn: Well I had become the first female Senior Editor, which meant I was in management, and after a while I’d had my children, I had worked part time, I’d come back and I realized I didn’t want to be the editor of Newsweek, I actually wanted to do something closer to women’s issues. And so I got a call from the owner of Working Woman magazine and I thought this is perfect. And I left to become the Editor in Chief of Working Woman in 1991 and I did that for 5 years and I loved that magazine. It was a magazine for women piling into the workforce, going into leadership positions and needing help to understand how to manage their careers.
Leisa: I mean I read it rabidly.
Lynn: It was a great magazine.
Leisa: Yes, yes.
Lynn: Unfortunately it doesn’t exist anymore. And then after that I knew I wanted to get into the internet. That was ’96, it was just beginning to happen and so I went to MSNBC.com when it was launching with MSNBC cable in 1996 and I managed all the content for NBC news and MSNBC cable out of New York. So I have had a great career.
Leisa: You really have. So tell me what you’re doing now.
Lynn: Well, because I wrote this book The Good Girl’s Revolt it actually had a great resonance among many people; women our age for whom all – we all have these stories and we’ve all gone through this position and then younger women who first of all didn’t know our history, don’t know our history, and also are finding that they are finding the same obstacles; they don’t know how to deal with them. And so they don’t necessarily identify it as a gender issue because they’re post feminism, whatever that means, and so listening to our stories and learning from us about how to organize and how to deal with these issues is something that I’ve now been talking about for almost 2 years.
Leisa: Do you have a planned schedule where you’re speaking or?
Lynn: I have been speaking, yes, in various places. I mean this has been a great thing and I was just speaking in Florida at and I just get hired by a lot of universities, by a lot of women’s organizations and also, interestingly enough, a lot of law firms because women in law firms are really having a difficult time. Only 15% of equity partners in law firms are women and yet women are 50% of law school students and they’re associates.
Leisa: It’s like the same percentage of women on corporate boards.
Lynn: Yes, exactly.
Leisa: We can’t seem to break this 17% whatever. It’s like ridiculous and yet we’re 50 something percent of the population. One last question; I know you’ve had a lot of experience and I know that a lot of your experience has been around the next generation – that’s what we were talking about – but if there was one thing that you want a young business woman to know today, to make her as successful as you’ve been, is there one thing you’d want to be sure they paid attention to?
Lynn: You know what I feel about young people today is they didn’t grow up in the great social movements that we had – the antiwar movement, the civil rights movement, the women’s movement – they don’t have a sense of organizing the way we did.
Lynn: They do stuff online very effectively but they don’t really, in their own work places, to change the corporate culture, know how to organize. And I would say that not only should it be women organizing, it should be women and men. It’s very important to get men involved in these issues because so many of them are not women’s issues, they are just issues for everyone. And changing the workplace to make it better for men and for women is really important.
Leisa: Thank you very much.
Lynn: Thanks Leisa, enjoyed it.
Leisa: There you have my extraordinary interview with the extraordinary Lynn Povich. I’m Leisa Holland-Nelson, president and co-founder of ContentActive, Houston’s leading web and mobile design and technology company. You can find me on ContentActive.com or follow me on Twitter @LHNelson. We’ll be back again next week with another edition of Women Mean Business.
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