After about a year, nothing much was happening. A couple women got promoted to reporters; one woman on the staff became a writer. Then they started hiring a few women from the outside to come in. About a year and a half into it, there were four new women writers, and about fifteen new male writers. So at a time when they’re supposedly aggressively looking for women, they’re hiring men at three to one. And believe it or not, two years later, we decided to sue again.
By this time, Eleanor Holmes Norton had become Human Rights Commissioner for the City of New York. So we hired Harriet Rabb, who was a new professor at Columbia teaching an employment-rights clinic. She was fabulous; she was just amazing. Now, two years later, there was enough employment-rights law that she was actually able to use goals and timetables and negotiate. We decided to sue in 1973, in the spring. At that point, Kay Graham was being sued by seven black reporters at The Washington Post called “the Metro Seven.” The women [there also] were restless and had been writing letters saying they were really unhappy with the situation for women at the Post. And now we had sued for a second time, so she was really annoyed. She called Joe Califano, who was the corporate lawyer for the Post. (He later became secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare, under Lyndon Johnson.)
Joe came up to negotiate with Harriet and a group of us on the women’s panel. At first, he was very resistant to everything. Then Harriet said, “Look, we need one third of all the writers and reporters to be women, and we need one third of the researchers to be men—to show that this is not a female job; this is a job. Anyone who is coming into an entry-level position should do this job, not just women.”
The last thing we asked for was a woman senior editor. Joe said, “No, no, that’s management; you can’t tell us who’s in management.” We said, “Well, we aren’t signing an agreement that doesn’t have a woman in the meeting where the decisions are being made.” So finally he caved in, and we signed the agreement in the spring of 1973. We said, “By the end of 1975, Newsweek will have a woman senior editor.”
How did that turn out to be you?
Ed Kosner, who was the managing editor, called me up in the spring of 1975 and asked me to try out. In August, Ed became the editor—Oz moved up to editor in chief—and Ed appointed me as the first woman senior editor of Newsweek, in August 1975. It’s unusual that one of the people who was involved in a lawsuit ends up being rewarded with a position like that. Most of the women on the front lines at Newsweek, at The New York Times, at Reader’s Digest—their careers did not go so well.
You talked to some young women for your book. What do you think has gotten better, and what hasn’t changed at all?
After 1975—I use that only because that was a moment when a woman got into management—things happened very fast for women. I would say between ’75 and ’85, in all the news organizations, women just flooded into those positions. Everyone thought, “Boy, this is it.” Our mindset was that it was a pipeline problem: We just need women in the pipeline, and of course they’ll succeed.