We need Carolyn Reidy to lead the charge to change the culture of the publishing industry.
This Report from the Field is a post by Jane Kinney-Denning, regarding the controversy surrounding an American media executive and a noted member of the publishing worlds response to it..
Sexual harassment in the workplace is a collective problem, and we need the strength of all of us to fight against it.
Shortly after the publication of the extensively researched New Yorker article written by Ronan Farrow, alleging that Leslie Moonves, the head of CBS, had sexually harassed women over the span of three decades, multiple high-level, powerful women sprang to his defense. This group included his wife, TV host, Julie Chen and her colleague, Sharon Osbourne, actress Lynda Carter, CBS publicist Leslie Anne Wade and Jo Ann Ross, the president and chief advertising revenue officer at CBS and Simon & Schuster US president and CEO Carolyn Reidy.
All had a similar message, stating in some form that their experiences with Moonves, on both a professional and personal level, had nothing in common with what is described in the article.
Reidy stating, “I have directly reported to Leslie Moonves for nearly 12 years, and during all that time I have been heartened and deeply impressed by the way in which women have been promoted and championed under his leadership at CBS, treated as equals and rewarded for their accomplishments and talent. He has always been supportive, straightforward, and helpful to me and Simon & Schuster. While it is not my desire or intent to question the accounts of the women in the New Yorker article, I can without hesitation state that the Leslie Moonves described therein is not recognisable as the man with whom I have been personally and professionally privileged to work.”
And with that, the only female who has risen to the ranks of CEO at any of the big 5 publishers, gave her boss a pass.
And dismissed the experiences, and cast doubt upon, the stories of the women speaking out about what had happened to them. Simply because what they were saying, did not happen to her.
My disappointment after reading her statement, was deeper that I might have imagined. It is such a missed opportunity. Women, and women in publishing in particular, needed her to be on our side or to at least let the investigation take its course, before declaring her allegiance.
For me and so many others Carolyn Reidy, has served as role model and publishing icon since taking on her role at S&S in 2008 (as well as before), giving us the visual of what it looks like for a women to have the power, the title and the opportunity to lead. She was named Publisher Weekly’s Person of the Year in 2017 and was a 2018 PEN America Publisher Honoree, recognized for her commitment to diversity at Simon & Schuster and for leading the company and publishing a wider range of voices that are more truly reflective of our larger culture.
Reidy is a remarkable publishing professional and women in the industry point to her as an example of what talented, hard-working women can achieve when the door is cracked open for us. But, what was her thinking in coming out so strongly and so quickly in support of Moonves? Apart from the obvious power that he wields in the media world.
I do not doubt that her relationship with Moonves has been one that has “heartened and impressed” her and many others. But sexual predators have many faces, and can be discriminating in choosing their victims.
We must listen to these women who are so bravely coming forward and telling us about their experiences with Moonves, one of the most powerful media executives in America and one of the highest paid-corporate executives in the world. Coming forward is not without risks for them.
Moonves admitting making “mistakes” but not owning up to “misusing” his position can only be interpreted as an acknowledgment that at least some of the allegations against him are true. And as for Moonves misusing his power? What else could it possibly be? This sort of conduct is tied to the overall culture of an organization and sends a message about how women are seen or valued within the entire organization.
And while I agree with Reidy that women have been making strides in climbing the corporate ladder in the media and publishing industries, including at the companies lead by Moonves, we must remember, in spite of her efforts, that for women and people of color in publishing today, gross inequities in pay still exist. And that there is still a huge imbalance in the share of management positions held by men, as well as a profound lack of diversity still existing within the the industry both in who is doing the publishing and in what is being published.
So in spite of Moonves’ many accomplishments to CBS as a businessman, it is hard to ignore the fact that the culture he has created at CBS allowed predators like Bill Cosby and Charlie Rose to thrive while such gross inequities in the publishing and media industries still exist.
There is no question that the head of an organization sets the tone of the culture for the entire organization. The only way to change the culture is to address patterns of harassment and at a company as large as CBS, doing so depends on reform at the highest levels, at Moonves’ level.
The publishing industry is in need of a major cultural shift and serious initiatives need to be implemented to correct the imbalances mentioned above. As Moonves himself said when he participated in the founding of the Commission on Eliminating Sexual Harassment and Advancing Equality in the Workplace, chaired by Anita Hill, “I think it’s important that a company’s culture will not allow for this. And that’s the thing that’s far-reaching. There’s a lot we’re learning. There’s a lot we didn’t know.”
We know more now.
It is time for the publishing industry to take the lead on guaranteeing equality and safety in the workplace. I hope that Carolyn Reidy and other women in powerful positions in the publishing industry will lead the charge and use their power to help other women. Sexual harassment in the workplace is a collective problem, and we need the strength of all of us to fight against it.
JANE KINNEY-DENNING is a writer and editor and the Immediate Past President of the Women’s National Book Association. A lifelong publishing professional, she served as the Executive Director of Internships and Corporate Outreach for the MS in Publishing Program at Pace University for 18 years and prior to that she worked as an Acquisitions editor and in various other positions at HarperCollins Publishers, Little Brown, and Van Nostrand Reinhold, among others.