The practices of the enlightened companies profiled in this issue make the ’60s and ’70s at Newsweek sound like a singularly dark age. A book that came out last summer, The Good Girls Revolt: How the Women of “Newsweek” Sued Their Bosses and Changed the Workplace, tells the story of a group of women fact-checkers who filed a class-action suit to obtain more equal employment. It’s almost inconceivable to imagine now, but at Newsweek in those days the editors—and most of the writers and reporters—were all men, and the researchers by and large were women.

The author, Lynn Povich, became the first woman to be promoted to senior editor there—but only after two lawsuits and five years. And even after that, the gender balance in the top jobs remained lopsided. I was hired there as an editorial secretary five years after that, and one of my duties was to deliver coffee every morning and afternoon and a Reuben sandwich once a week to the editor I worked for. To be fair, he’d told me that fetching his lunch would be part of the job, and, if I felt it was beneath me, I could decline the offer. I didn’t know then that the job would be the first step to an editorial career—I was just happy to be making a little more money.

The era Povich writes about was certainly a time of disruption in the workplace, and many of the women at Newsweek were “good girls” with English degrees who had no roadmap and few mentors or role models for forging a career path. 

Today, there are infinitely more ways to answer the question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” High school students call Seattle Met to line up job shadows as part of their course work. College students attend career fairs and networking events like the mentor lunch I attended last fall for liberal arts majors at the University of Washington. And there’s the Internet. A young Seattle company called Inside Jobs, started by a former director of biz dev at Amazon, provides a kind of online career planning service and community. If I were looking for careers today, instead of accidently falling into a secretarial job at a magazine, I could select from a menu of favorite subjects in school, things I like to do in my spare time, the kind of hours I want to work, or the causes I care about, and voila, several pages of appropriate job descriptions would pop up. 

And of course, there are internships and Seattle has some wonderfully surprising ones, as reported by our own team of interns. Imagine helping to develop technology for the Kinect or getting to take candid photos of giraffes at the zoo or being a beer taster for a local brewpub. Where do I apply?

 

Published: January 2013

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