Over 50 members and guests attended a celebration of International Women’s Day, kindly hosted by the University of Westminster on Wednesday 11 March. Students and professional journalists were treated to an honest and passionate conversation on the struggles and successes of women of colour and migrant heritage in the media.
The discussion was chaired by award winning broadcaster, journalist and WIJ committee Yasmin Alibhai-Brown. The panel included Reuters journalist and PressPad ambassador Adela Suliman; Vice UK executive editor Zing Tsjeng, who is also author of the Forgotten Women series of books; BBC radio arts presenter Nikki Bedi; Hannah Pool, former Guardian writer and now CEO of the Bernie Grant Arts Centre, and deputy opinion editor of the i newspaper, Kasia Delgado.
Diversity in the workplace was the main topic of discussion. No matter the skin colour, all panellists agreed that women experience problems proving themselves in the workplace.
Panellists shared their personal efforts in tackling tokenism. ‘‘It is not only about ticking the boxes,’’ said Yasmin, who was the first Muslim female columnist on a national British newspaper.
When Hannah left her full-time job at the Guardian she was pleased to discover a range of outlets to publish her stories about under-represented topics that the Guardian would not have run.
Nikki shared the view that women should not be defined by their background, so that they can be free to pursue any subject area in journalism they want.
Zing praised Vice for actively promoting ethnic equality. ‘‘A quarter to a third of editorial people are of colour,” she said.
Yasmin said those who support under-represented groups, like the white, middle class editors at the Independent who had commissioned her, deserve respect. Adela reminded everyone to help others: ‘‘You have to open the door to other people.’’
The panel ended on a positive note, with guests chatting to the panellists over drinks.
Dr Anastasia Denisova, Course Leader of BA Journalism at Westminster, said ‘‘We are extremely grateful to Women in Journalism for organising this event that many of our students attended and were inspired by. As one of the most diverse journalism degrees in the UK, we take pride in promoting fair representation of women of colour both in media stories and in newsrooms. We teach modules on diversity, but listening to the insights of the panellists was a precious and rather emotional experience.’’
Karolina Pracht, a BA Journalism student, said, ‘‘The panel was really eye-opening, because it provided future female journalists with invaluable insights about the industry.’’