Bluntly put, the COVID-19 pandemic has devastated the female workforce globally, making gender equality progress take a backseat. In the US, more than 2 million women left the labor force in 2020, and they now stand at the lowest workforce participation level since 1988. Job losses in female-dominated industries like hospitality have forced many women to opt-out of work. In contrast, others who had to dabble with the difficulty of balancing child-care with paid work have quit.
Amidst this disappointing state of affairs, quite a few women stood their ground and were appointed to high leadership roles in various organizations. Last year, the Washington Post appointed long-time journalist Sally Buzbee of the Associated Press (AP) as its new executive editor, scripting history, as the first woman to lead the newsroom in the paper’s 144-year history. Buzbee, 55, earlier served as the executive editor and senior vice president of AP, where she worked since 1988. She succeeded Marty Baron, who retired in February 2021. The media outlet is now owned by Amazon’s Jeff Bezos.
The news was delivered to the staff through a memo by the Post’s publisher Fred Ryan, who informed them of the new leadership and called Buzbee “an inspiring leader and accomplished journalist in the finest traditions.” Buzbee’s experience includes serving as the AP’s Washington bureau chief from 2010 to 2016. She also worked in the bureau during the early 1990s. She started at the AP as a reporter and editor, ascended the ranks overseeing the wire service’s investigative journalism, helmed the coverage of the Middle East and the Iraq war from the AP’s Cairo bureau, and became Washington bureau chief before succeeding Kathleen Carroll in January 2017 as the outlet’s senior vice president and top editor. Buzbee also oversaw a multiplatform operation of around 2,800 journalists based in 250 locations in 100 countries—a global newsroom more than twice the size of the Post.
Buzbee’s appointment is the latest in a series of notable leadership changes across major news outlets, bringing more diversity to top positions. In early 2021, Alessandra Galloni took charge as the first female editor of Reuters, followed by Kimberly Godwin, who became president of ABC News, the first Black person to hold that position. Women leaders are now at the helm of CBS News, USA Today, MSNBC, The Guardian, The Economist, the Financial Times, Politico, and NPR. By hiring Buzbee, the Post is coming full circle since the paper’s publisher, Katherine Graham made a mark for herself in the 1960s and 70s.
Soon after her appointment to run one of American journalism’s most prominent newspapers, Buzbee said in an interview that she was honored to be the first woman to lead the Post newsroom, besides acknowledging the women who came before her. “I am grateful to them pretty much every day of my life because I know that it took work and guts, and I really do feel that they paved the way for things that are happening now,” she said. Given the barriers women still face in this industry, Buzbee’s hire is indeed a big deal and a big step towards further representation.
Buzbee, who has two daughters, is a native of Washington state and spent her high school years in Olathe, Kansas. A graduate of the University of Kansas, Buzbee began her career in journalism in the AP’s Topeka bureau in 1988. She also holds an MBA degree from Georgetown University.
The Washington Post was purchased by Amazon founder and billionaire Jeff Bezos in 2013 for a whopping $250 million, subsequently ending the Graham family’s ownership over the media giant for 80 years. The paper has gone through massive changes in the past several years and won 10 Pulitzer Prizes under the able leadership of Baron.
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