On the morning of International Women’s Day, ELLE.com hosted a panel, moderated by ELLE.com staff editor Mattie Kahn, celebrating female journalists who are working to champion women’s rights and create social change around the world. The theme for this year’s International Women’s Day is #PressForProgress, and we were welcomed by three women who are essential mouthpieces to their respective news organizations: Brooke Baldwin, CNN anchor and creator of CNN’s American Woman series, Azmat Khan, investigative reporter and New York Times Magazine contributing writer, and Emily Steel, business reporter at the New York Times.
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Here’s some of what they had to say about the stories they’re telling and the essential next steps we all must take:
We Have to To Be Transparent About Our Salaries
When talking about the fight for gender equality, one taboo topic Baldwin brought up is salary transparency. “This is a whole different conversation, and one I think we need to be talking about more out loud,” she said. “What men are making, what women are making. It’s still one of those taboo things we don’t share.”
Khan then explained that back when unions were strong in the United States, one of their demands was to have salary databases within companies. Even when she was working at WGBH in Boston, there was a salary database, which is how Khan discovered a man on her team, who people thought was less talented than she, was making much more money than her. She then used the database to negotiate for a higher salary. “With a decline in unions, this history of salary transparency has really gone down the drain,” she explained. “There are incredible efforts to suppress that information. We actually have a history of more of this being revealed. It’s tied up in these economic systems of labor today, why we don’t know as much as we used to.”
Both Baldwin and Khan revealed they share information about their salaries and contracts with friends, so the women around them can be more prepared when they enter into negotiations within their own companies. “I have no shame about it,” Khan said. “I just share [the contracts] because literally just having that actual document goes so far in a salary negotiation.”
Men Have to Be a Part of This Conversation
Steel, who broke the news about Bill O’Reilly’s series of sexual harassment settlements, which eventually led to his ousting, spoke about the need to include men in these conversations as well. “It’s really about finding this mutual respect,” she said. “The story I did about Bill O’Reilly, I did with Mike Schmidt, who is this fantastic colleague. He’s also a man, as were a number of editors at the Times who really championed this story. But in addition to that, a number of our sources were men. It wasn’t just women who saw this as something they needed to talk about. It was men, too.”
This Movement Didn’t Come Out of Nowhere
The panel also made sure to pay respect to the generations of women who have paved the way for the current #MeToo movement. “As we’re talking about #MeToo, all of us are really steeped in this history of women’s movements in the United States that all of this is built off of,” Khan said. “Even though they’re not tracing that linear trajectory, we’re aware of the advances that had to be made by women’s movements and other allied movements in the United States that are such a critical role in this happening. I think when there are high profile people, whether that’s Angelina Jolie or others, it can be easy then to miss these groups of people, these collectives, that exist and [that] all of this is born out of. That is critical to any of this coming to light in the first place.”
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What’s After #MeToo
It’s easy enough to look back at the year’s long list of allegations, revelations, and investigations, but it’s just as important to look ahead at what’s next for the women’s movement. When asked what we will see in the coming months, Steel said she hopes people will take reporting beyond just allegations against powerful men and begin to look at the systems of complicity that allow harassment and assault to continue.
Khan also added that she hopes the #MeToo movement will permeate other spheres, including the service industry. “Women make up such a large portion of the service industry, and harassment is such a significant portion of that,” she said. “It doesn’t have the actors or transparency mechanisms or systems in which there’s any punishment for some of these employees and bosses.”
And Baldwin pointed to November 2018, saying that she’s never been more excited to cover a midterm election due to the high number of women planning to run.
Kahn then ended the panel with a reflection back to 1992, or the “Year of the Woman,” when Americans elected more new women to Congress than ever before. “We are still seeing the effects of that,” she said. “I think this year—in 20 years—we will see women who have risen to power, emboldened by the things we’ve all been talking about, who will help shape a new world.”
Celebrate International Women’s Day by watching the entire panel, below: