Politico Says Uptick of Women in Top Roles Was Not a ‘Concerted Effort’

Earlier today we published a story highlighting the marked increase of women in leadership roles at Politico. The publication, clearly founded by two males, has been dogged since it began in 2006 over the heavy presence of males in top roles. Insiders have said repeatedly that the reports were overblown. But that didn’t stop WaPo‘s Erik Wemple from highlighting the startling numbers of women who have left over the years. Or TNR from recently questioning VandeHarris over the reputation of “overt sexism” at the news outlet.

As we reported earlier today, as some top male editors are leaving the publication, they’re being replaced by women. Before this, women had already assumed top roles. We asked if this, as well as a number of other females in high-ranking roles, is a concerted effort to beat the bad rap.

Editor-in-Chief John Harris told FishbowlDC, “To be clear, I don’t  believe in our many years as editors and reporters either Jim or I were ever ‘accused of being anti-women.’ It is true that due to the circumstances of our launch we were for a time kind of top-heavy with men in ways that did not reflect our vision for POLITICO. By no means are any recent moves a reflection of some sort of ‘concerted effort’ on gender grounds. Instead, they flow naturally from our determination to get the most talented and ambitious people in jobs where they can have the most impact on our newsroom, on our business, and for our readers.”

Harris said in seeking the most talented, women are naturally gravitating to these positions. He even made sure to point to the fact that his boss is a woman.

“As it happens, this determination has led to several women who are best-in-business being put in top jobs, either by me and Jim or by Robert Allbritton,” he wrote. “My direct boss, chief operating officer Kim Kingsley, counts among the most up-and-coming young business executives in Washington. My top deputy, Danielle Jones, got her job by succeeding at every task we gave her since she joined us in late 2007.”

With all this talk about women, he’s careful to remember the men in leadership roles.

“Several of the people on whom the future of our newsroom depends most vitally are women—Susan Glasser, Rachel Smolkin, and Laura McGann among them,” he wrote. “Also in this group are some men in prominent roles—Marty Kady heading up the policy team and Mike Zapler as politics editor. It’s worth noting also Robert’s success in creating an opportunity culture on the business side—Miki King, who leads the business side of Pro, and Jennifer Hurley, who runs our finances, are good examples.”

Harris stressed merit over gender. “In short, what we set out to create when we launched POLITICO in my estimation is well on the way to coming true—a workplace where people have more ability to prove their merit and earn responsibility at a faster pace than any other place in the news business. Creating and sustaining this kind of culture is work that is not fully done, and never will be. But I’m very proud of the achievements of our top people and would caution you against thinking that gender is any factor behind promotions—talent is decisive.”