Joan Lunden was one of the first network anchors to share her three pregnancies with viewers during the 1980’s. Up until that time a pregnant reporter was not a common sight on television. Lunden broke ground at the time by making a point of bringing her newborn babies to work and creating a nursery in her office.
Since then female anchors and reporters have happily shared their pregnancies with viewers – most recently Fox News’ Megyn Kelly and CNN’s Erin Burnett. These on-air talent have been great examples of women who haven’t missed a beat and have successfully been able to have both career and family.
CBS News’ Norah O’Donnell recently told New York Magazine that it is by no means easy but that she is able to do it because of a strong support system at home and at work. I think most female anchors would agree with O’Donnell.
Unfortunately many female producers who comprise that support system can’t say the same. I have noticed time and again when a female producer starts a family she very often ends up leaving her job. It’s a real struggle. Cut backs in the industry have led to long hours and overworked producers. Twelve hour days in broadcast news are now the norm rather than the exception.
A pregnant producer friend and colleague recently had to take time off because the long days and stress are affecting her health. I’ve seen other female colleagues leave the industry for jobs outside of television before they even start a family because they see how difficult it is to be a producer while raising children. Sheryl Sandberg addresses this issue of women stepping back from their careers prior to having children in her book “Lean In”.
Look around any news room and you’ll see many women in their twenties but as you look for women in their thirties and forties the numbers significantly dwindle. This is unfortunate not just for these women but for the industry as a whole. Their voices, ideas and life experiences are missing from the stories covered each day. We need to find a way to support these women too.