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Women do hold leadership positions

Observer Viewpoint | Wednesday, February 2, 2005

As a woman who served as managing editor for The Observer for two years, I was infuriated to find that the newspaper was negatively cited in the Notre Dame student government’s upcoming Board of Trustees report on campus diversity.

In the report to be delivered to trustees this week, the authors say that “there have been significantly greater males in the role of editor-in-chief over the past 33 years” and that “this could possibly be a reflection of how women often fill supporting roles rather than top leadership positions.”

The authors of this report clearly did not speak with anyone at The Observer before levying their criticism, and clearly don’t understand its organizational structure. That is sad, because it is a brilliant example at Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s of an organization that has a strong track record in promoting not only women through the ranks, but minorities and non-Catholic students as well.

To those who would say the role of managing editor is a “supporting” role, you are horrifically mistaken. The managing editor works with the editor in chief and the assistant managing editor to run the paper. The editor works 40 hours or more in a week while balancing classes. The editor is on the front lines of handling legal and ethical issues the paper faces. The editor is responsible for training and nurturing younger writers. And the editor combs over each and every word of that paper, usually until the early hours of the morning.

That is not a supporting role. That is a critical role. Without it, the paper would fail.

To look at an organizational structure and evaluate it for gender equity, you must look at it in its entirety. While the last four editors in chief have been men, The Observer has, during the past 15 years, a strong track record of women being elected to serve as editor-in-chief. It has also routinely hired women into the positions of managing editor, assistant managing editor and advertising and business manager, as well as section editor positions. Tell any one of the women who held these positions they were not leaders and they will certainly tell you otherwise.

I would never say gender relations are not a problem on Notre Dame’s campus. They are.

I applaud student government’s willingness to tackle the issue. But The Observer is one of the rare examples of an organization that has turned the corner. In fact, in 2001, as student government was celebrating the election of the campus’ first female student body president, The Observer had a different reason to applaud. There was just one man on the editorial board.

I would say that is a point past equity. Perhaps the student government leaders would do themselves good by studying it and replicating it in their own organization.

Noreen Gillespie

Managing Editor 2000-02

Saint Mary’s alumna

class of ’02

Feb. 2