The Problem

The lack of female leadership at the executive level in newsrooms is a well-documented problem. With the high-profile firing of Jill Abramson from The New York Times in 2014, a Nieman Center report asking “Where Are the Women?” was well-timed.

But the stark statistics of professional journalism, where the American Society of News Editors’ 2015 census found just over 35% of newsroom supervisors were women, contrast to the makeup of high school newsrooms, where girls are doing the majority of reporting and hold more leadership positions than their male counterparts. And that doesn’t stop in high school. Women receive far more degrees than men in communication fields (62.5% of all Bachelor’s degrees and 67.6% of Master’s).

Why the disconnect? Over the last few years, attorneys began to notice a pattern from the makeup of calls to the Student Press Law Center’s helpline: censorship was uniquely and differentially impacting girls. Recent research conducted by a team at the University of Kansas has given credence to this anecdotal evidence.

But when schools censor student journalism, they’re not just stopping readers from learning new ideas—they’re stopping inquisitive young women from realizing their potential, as journalists or just as participatory citizens. The news media needs strong female voices. Preparing young women for career success and advancement in the media industry—which badly needs their perspectives—starts with building more supportive educational environments.

We committed to fixing this through research, through mentorship, and through grassroots activism to build stronger and more supportive school communities. That’s how Active Voice was born.