Media Leaders Share Innovative Ideas to Create Safer, More Diverse Workplaces at Power Shift Program

By independent writer Susan Garland

At a symposium at the Newseum on July 24 sponsored by the Freedom Forum Institute’s Power Shift Project, leaders from Dow Jones, NPR and Politico described ways their companies are promoting newsroom inclusion, creating peer support groups and promoting cultures of intentional inclusion.

The forum, called “Shifting the Power,” also featured a discussion of the Power Shift Project’s Workplace Integrity training curriculum. “This is a custom-tailored curriculum for media organizations, and it is designed to advance the goal of workplaces free of harassment, discrimination and incivility and full of opportunity, especially for those who have traditionally been denied it,” said Jan Neuharth, chair and chief executive of the Freedom Forum.

Jill Geisler, the Freedom Forum Institute Fellow in Women’s Leadership and Loyola University Chicago’s Bill Plante Chair in Leadership and Media Integrity, designed the Workplace Integrity curriculum. The first training session was held at the Newseum in June, 2018, graduating 33 people who are prepared to deliver the training in their own news organizations. Future workshops will be held at the Newseum on Sept. 5 and 6, and Nov. 14 and 15, 2018.

Highlighting Innovative Initiatives

Dow Jones’ IGNITE

The IGNITE initiative was created after CEO William Lewis announced last summer that the company would promote inclusion, hire a chief diversity officer and work toward a 40% target of executive-level women for every department in the company. The training program aims to provide “a platform for women to connect, innovate and essentially inculcate the culture differently than had been done in the past,” said Meredith Lubitz, vice president of talent management of Dow Jones, which owns The Wall Street Journal. A goal, she said, was for women “to get to know each other and support each other.”

In February, a diverse group of 25 women from a variety of company departments worldwide—11 from the newsroom and 14 from the commercial side—met in New York City for four days of workshops. To help in “creating trust and cohesion across the group,” the organizers brought in coaches for a day-long session on transformational leadership.

“It was so mind-blowing for me to see people become raw and vulnerable within an hour or two of spending time with one another,” Lubitz said. During the four days, the participants heard from top executives about corporate strategies, programs and products. Network opportunities and “cohort building experiences” also took place.

In the months since the launch, the participants were given personality assessments, which, Lubitz said, “gave them a better understanding about how they communicate, how they decision-make and how they interact with others.” Also, every month, groups of four or five participants coach each other on challenges they face.

Every executive in the company sponsors an IGNITE member, she said, “to get them ready for bigger and larger roles in the future.” This includes two to four hours a month of mentoring and job shadowing. “Executive sponsorship is one of the most important pieces for the success of the program,” Lubitz said. “This is not an HR initiative. It is essentially a cultural initiative.”

Several of the 25 “Igniters” also spoke at the Power Shift panel. One of the most powerful parts of the program was the opportunity to develop close relationships with women from other parts of the company and other parts of the world, said Raakhee Mirchandani, editor in chief of Moneyish and senior content development editor of Dow Jones Media Group. “When you share information with each other, you can dramatically change a company,” she said. “I assure you the work we are doing together will change Dow Jones.” And, she said, the 25 “will pay this forward to the men and women who work for them.”

The access to top executives was also a major component, said Gráinne McCarthy, deputy chief news editor in The Wall Street Journal’s London bureau. “The access we have had gives us a buy-in and a say in so much about what is going on around the company,” she said. She noted that the group has already made recommendations to top executives on ways to expand subscribers.

NPR’s Peer-Support Groups

Following harassment allegations against several top executives, NPR began a series of  “listening sessions” with employees while also launching planning for peer support groups, a network of trusted volunteer colleagues who listen, assist and guide employees who may have experienced unwelcome behavior.

Gerry Holmes, managing editor of enterprise at NPR and leader in developing the initiative, said that “mistrust” was pervasive across the company and that the peer-support group is a way to “get people comfortable enough to surface the conversations that they were already having.” The initiative is expected to launch in the fall of 2018.

As with Dow Jones, the NPR initiative is aimed at tackling problems and opportunities company-wide, not just in the newsroom. Six employees—half from newsroom and half from outside the newsroom—are creating the program. Though the program is a partnership with the human resources and legal departments, the group wanted to make sure it kept its grassroots aspects, Holmes said.

The goal of the peers is to “set up a safe space to initiate conversations and then to be shepherds along the way,” Holmes said. The peer-support program will ensure that the HR and legal departments will address complaints and concerns of employees who seek help from the peer-support group.

Hugo Rojo, manager of NPR social media communications and a member of the initiative team, said that the group sought to recruit peer volunteers “from every corner of the organization.” That includes finding volunteers in different departments, as well as managers and non-managers, and those who work different shifts.

Sharahn Thomas, senior director of news operation sand budget, said the 45 peer volunteers who have been chosen will undergo extensive training. They will be brought to network headquarters in Washington, D.C., for a daylong training session to learn about the law and company policies regarding harassment. They also will be trained on how to coach and to listen.

Maryfran Tyler, senior director of strategy at NPR, said that one of the issues the team had to deal with was whether peer volunteers had to report incidents of harassment. While managers in the company are required to report, non-managers are not, she said. With the guidance of HR and legal, the group decided that “it would be better for everyone to report.” Tyler also noted that employees now have numerous ways to report harassment, including an anonymous tip line.

Politico’s Culture Of Intentional Inclusion

Benefit programs also are key to promoting inclusion and diversity, especially when it comes to attracting younger employees, said Traci Schweikert, vice president of human resources at Politico. “We want to make sure we create an intentional culture of inclusion,” she told the audience.

For example, she said, older employee handbooks that described differing leaves for parents who are “primary and secondary caregivers” did not make sense to her when she started at the company. “We want to support all parents at Politico,” she said. Her team is also looking at benefits for “non-traditional families.” And the company is rolling out “flexible vacations,” which basically removes limits on days off.

New hires undergo a one-day orientation to learn about company values and to “make sure that everyone walking in the door knows about our wonderful programs,” Schweikert said. Orientation includes information on the company’s policies on inclusion, harassment and discrimination. Each new employee is assigned to a non-manager mentor in the newsroom. A “mentoring network” pairs managers and senior leaders with those with less experience, she says.

The company also trains managers on how to conduct “culture conversations,” and an annual engagement survey provides HR “with a lot of feedback,” Schweikert said.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *