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Monday, May 15, 2006

Flexibility is smart management

Cynthia Miller is brilliant! That's my opinion and it should be yours too. Miller sends out a weekly e-mail on newsroom management. This week, she included a toast to all the mothers working in newsrooms.
Millers convincingly argues that it is critical that mothers work in newsrooms, both managing the staff and crafting the content. She says newsrooms must create a culture that retains working mothers. Her argument is new in the journalism profession. Entry level ranks are abundant with women but the profession has been slow to see women rise to the top.
Miller, whose e-mails go out to 9,500 newsroom managers, backs her argument for retaining mothers with some strong points.
* Creating a culture that works for working mothers makes it a better place for all who work there.
* Generally female management styles are more inclusive, a characteristic of a positive work environment.
* Women readers are the target audience for newspapers. It's a bottom line decision. Women make 80 percent of all purchasing decisions, and that's a number advertisers know well.

She has some great suggestions for how to keep moms from bolting, advice that can be used in any profession:
Make your newsroom results-oriented, and quit controlling peoples lives by requiring unnecessary face time. That doesn't mean the job doesn't get done, or that people get ridiculous arrangements. It's a business, and it is called work, after all. But when someone asks for flexibility, respond with "How?" not "Why?" All requests for flexibility should be followed with a detailed plan on how obligations will be met, a trial period with necessary adjustments and fair monitoring of results.

I think this suggestion by Miller is particularly good:
Create on-ramps for women who become mothers. If newsrooms could create special work programs to keep working mothers in the pipeline during the demanding baby years, woman who will have much to give back to the newsroom in years to come.

Miller also suggests promoting people with positive assumptions about other people. I think this is a brilliant way to look at hiring and promoting.
Her advice: Giving authority to managers that have positive assumptions about people will change the way the newsroom operates for the better, and that will go a long way in retaining the best people--men and women--the key to putting out a great product.
Isn't that the goal of most businesses?


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