USC Annenberg invites Cindi Leive to discuss women and media

Annenberg Media Center Director Christina Bellantoni and professor Miki Turner, both former journalists, sat down Thursday for a conversation with Cindi Leive, the former editor-in-chief of Glamour and Self magazines and a senior fellow at Annenberg.

With Leive’s decades of experience speaking about women and media, much of the conversation dealt with navigating the complexities of being a working woman, delving specifically into the relationship between domestic and work life. Leive detailed her personal experience as a mother and as a professional and the immense expectations that accompany these roles.

Recognizing that her maternity leave was longer than the national average, which she called “pitifully insufficient,” Lieve discussed the difficulty of juggling two roles.  

“I complained a lot about it to my husband and my friends,” Leive said. “But I never actually took it to my company … I felt like on some level I was lucky to have this position, and I don’t think that’s something a man in the same position would think.”

Bellantoni also remarked on the challenges facing working women who want to start a family. She said she has witnessed women reluctant to defend their interests, opting instead to work overtime or sacrifice aspects of their personal or professional lives.

“I’ve had people say ‘I don’t want to ask about maternity leave policy when searching for a job because I don’t want you to think I’m just going to get pregnant right away,’” Bellantoni said. “First of all, you can do whatever you want … and secondly, it’s important for you to have this information.”

Leive tied these challenges facing women back to the media by analyzing how language pigeonholes and undermines professional women, especially those in the public eye.

“A lot of the most basic, egregious, bits of sexism that reporters use to exhibit women candidates like asking … ‘How are you going to do this job andif you have kids?’” Leive said.

This discussion provoked a question from Parker Susolik, a freshman majoring in philosophy, politics and law. Referring to questions of whether a female candidate is fit to hold office if she has children, Susolik asked, “How come that can’t be seen as an actual, pointed question?”

Graduate business student Alexandra Pinckney said that such a question, while it appears logical, targets women specifically.

“The problem is female candidates are asked [how they can do the job if they have a child] when their children are … out of the infancy stages, where either parent should be equally involved,” Pinckney said. “She also added that such a question invalidates women as equally competent and, in the case of female politicians, ‘detracts from the focus of the campaign.’”

Remi Riordan, a sophomore majoring in journalism, also offered her remarks on the challenges facing working women. She discussed the idea of holistically reevaluating the way our society splits professional and personal life, suggesting that giving people more personal freedom does not hinder their ability to be effective workers.

“The whole idea relies so much on biology, and, first of all, not all women want to have children, and so many men nowadays want paternity leave,” Riordan said. “In the talk, they were saying how people do better when they’re given more time to spend with their families. Even now some jobs are cutting their work weeks down … and saying that performance has gone up.”