#IWD2021 Philippines - Rising up to the challenge

#IWD2021 Philippines - Rising up to the challenge

For International Women’s Month, we celebrate four journalists who have all uniquely carved their career paths, challenging the traditions of Philippine media and empowering other women to become trailblazers in their respective platforms.

604733ad50538_281vj_VOX%20POP%20PH.jpg We spoke with Kristine Fonacier, the Editor-in-Chief of Cebu Pacific travel magazine, Smile, and the Co-Founder / Editor-at-Large of GRID Magazine to hear her thoughts on the matters concerning diversity in the workplace. 

Ida Aldana also took a break from her thesis project at New York University to voice out her hopes for local journalism. The Master’s Degree student for Publishing, Digital, and Print media is also presently contributing to publications such as PhilSTAR L!fe, Cosmo.ph and New-York based title, Honeysuckle. 

Ruby Asoy-Lebajo, the Blog Author behind Ruby’s Precious Moments, recalled how the media landscape has changed drastically from when she started out as a young features writer 27 years ago. Ruby is also presently contributing to Experience Travel & Living magazine.

WheninManila.com’s Chief Operating Officer, Sky Gavin, also shared what opportunities and challenges are present for aspiring journalists in the country. 

In your opinion, name the biggest challenge that female journalists still face in the industry. 
Ruby: For me, the biggest challenge is using social media properly for data gathering and news/story sources, journalists need to be alert to the challenges – and opportunities – that this digital sphere provides. We have to remind ourselves that online discussions are not descriptive of populations in general and that they are deeply filtered by both platform algorithms and what people choose to post. Social media is a tool to help us in our work, but traditional methods of recognising and building relationships with sources remain just as important. 

Ida: Female journalists are still not being taken seriously. It happens when our questions are purposely ignored in interviews when our journalistic integrity is undermined with ad hominem attacks, when sexual harassment happens in the workplace when we are underpaid, or even when the topics we pursue are simply brushed off as fluff. It’s expressed and seen in a lot of different ways and situations, but the underlying challenge for female journalists is to work as professionals even when they’re treated as anything but. 

Kristine: The industry is a microcosm of the society we live in, and so I think the challenges that face women in the media are reflective of the wider challenges that all women face. We go do our jobs—in the 21st century!—and have to face both casual and systemic misogyny. The most insidious is the everyday misogyny that we tend to overlook, which tends to show up so quietly that we forget that it's there.  

Sky: Though there are many women who are paving the way for others, there are still gender standards in different industries. While there is a fair amount of women leaders in the media in the Philippines, there is still discrimination against women trying to 'make it’. Don't get me wrong, there is progress but it’s slow. Women are meant to lead and excel in any industry and I think it's time that we let them fly high, freely.  

How did you go about overcoming these obstacles to get where you are today? 
Kristine: I hesitate to say "overcome" because that implies that the challenges are behind me. I've heard some people argue that my career—especially the fact that I'd been the editor of Esquire, a men's magazine—is proof that sexism doesn't exist in the industry. It does. I remind myself that women must have a seat at the table and that we also have to ensure that our presence there ensures that more women also get a seat. 

Sky: When I was starting out in the media, I faced many challenges with my colleagues who are all men and known in the industry. People second-guessed my talent and passion to be successful in the media. Many opportunities were given to my colleagues who are guys while I was handed the leftover assignments. It was a challenge, but it also gave me a chance to prove myself and to stand up and have them treat me equally. 

Ruby: Through hard work and sheer determination. While I was fortunate to be in the company of the best editors in the industry right after college, I was afraid to feel stuck on editorial work. So, I took on opportunities for other disciplines like Advertising, PR, and Marketing. While I have come full circle, one thing remains, the journalist in me will always be ingrained. By continuing to be relevant, adapting to the changing new world, and learning continuously - I managed to overcome all obstacles that were thrown my way. 

Ida: I try to assess the situation from different perspectives and figure out what I can do to make it work for me. It’s best to be grounded in your principles then act accordingly—it could be by bringing it to other people’s attention or by taking yourself out of the situation. I can’t control what happens around me, but I can control what I can do about it. 

Can you share a piece of advice for female journalists who are looking to advance their careers? 
Sky: Never be afraid. If there is something I learned in my 12 years in the media, it's always to be fearless. Never fear the unknown, never fear to make your voice heard, never fear to ask questions, and never fear to tell your stories. Never let your fears hold you back. 

Kristine: Find a mentor, find your allies. And be an ally and a mentor to other people, too. 

Ida: Keep putting in the work and your work will speak for itself. Mistakes and problems will always be part of the process no matter how you do it, so you can’t let that stop you. As you continue, not only will you learn and get better, but the right people will also see what you can do. 

Ruby: Recognise your talent and skills – where you are good at and passionate about. Build experiences as you learn things, then work to make those competitive advantages, until you become an expert on it. Work hard, and with passion as there is no shortcut to success. Have integrity, always verify your facts, scrutinise your sources and always tell the truth. 

How do you think media practitioners can empower female journalists in the country? 
Ida: Support them by taking them seriously. Give them a platform, stand with them when they are attacked for doing their job, provide a safe space for workplace issues, pay them what they’re really worth, work with them to better tell the story. All of these add up to a more inclusive and progressive industry as a whole. 

Sky: Media companies and practitioners can empower women by giving them equal opportunities in the workplace. By covering news and trends that empower women and by acknowledging the talent and other contributions of women in the country. 

Ruby: By improving the working conditions in newsrooms and investing in the skills, training efforts, and opportunities of female journalists. Promote gender equality and ensuring their views and voices are taken into account. 

Kristine: I'll take another path with this question—I'd like to focus on how those of us in media can empower all women. Our choices matter greatly because the words and images we produce shape perspectives. I think we need to be always aware and deliberate about our work, to ensure justice and equity for everyone. 

We’d love to hear from you about how you continuously overcome challenges in the workplace. Share your own thoughts and experiences through philippinesalert@telummedia.com

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