In this week’s New York, writer Nora Ephron recounts her first experiences in New York, a city that her words would eventually bring to life for people all over the world. (Her essay, along with ones by Colum McCann and Parker Posey, is part of an excerpt of New York’s latest book, My First New York, out tomorrow.) In Ephron’s essay, she describes how she landed her first job in the city, at Newsweek.
At the Newsweek interview, I said I hoped to become a writer, and the man who interviewed me assured me that women weren’t writers at Newsweek. It would never have crossed my mind to object or to say, “You’re going to turn out to be wrong about me.” It was a given in those days that if you were a woman and you wanted to do certain things, you were going to have to be the exception to the rule. I was hired as a mail girl, for $55 a week.
This was in 1962, and Ephron wasn’t alone. Throughout the sixties, women felt they were being held back at Newsweek. In 1970, a group of them, nicknamed the “dollies” by their male bosses, filed suit against the magazine. That year, 46 women at the newsmagazine became the first group of women in media to sue for employment discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. This week, Newsweek also takes a look back at that time, in a story written by three of their young women writers, who note that though the magazine has come far, there seems to still be a long way to go:
No one would dare say today that “women don’t write here,” as the NEWSWEEK women were told 40 years ago. But men wrote all but six of NEWSWEEK’s 49 cover stories last year — and two of those used the headline “The Thinking Man.” In 1970, 25 percent of NEWSWEEK’s editorial masthead was female; today that number is 39 percent. Better? Yes. But it’s hardly equality. (Overall, 49 percent of the entire company, the business and editorial sides, is female.) … If a man takes an interest in our work, we can’t help but think about the male superior who advised “using our sexuality” to get ahead, or the manager who winkingly asked one of us, apropos of nothing, to “bake me cookies.” One young colleague recalls being teased about the older male boss who lingered near her desk. “What am I supposed to do with that? Assume that’s the explanation for any accomplishments? Assume my work isn’t valuable?” she asks. “It gets in your head, which is the most insidious part.”
Newsweek’s reputation for encouraging the “boys” who work there isn’t a secret among young journalists. “The boys used to get taken out for whiskeys,” one woman who went to the magazine right after college a few years ago told us recently. “The girls, not so much.” Of course, a lot of magazines have a lot of reputations — some earned, some unearned. Regardless of whether Newsweek’s rep falls into the former or latter category, the young women who wrote this week’s piece are evidence that there are still women there like the youthful Ephron, who are willing to bet that they can be the exception to the rule.