Magazine article The Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education

CHICAS PODEROSAS: Empowering Women in Latin America's News Industry

Magazine article The Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education

CHICAS PODEROSAS: Empowering Women in Latin America's News Industry

Article excerpt

Female journalists in Latin America are powerless in their newsrooms. They lack a connection to the digital aspect of storytelling in news production and are excluded from decision-making in the editorial process. Although they're allowed to investigate and write stories, that's where the connection to their stories and to their readers ends, says Mariana Santos, co-founder and CEO of Unicorn Interactive, a new independent media start up on digital storytelling and a former member of the interactive team at The Guardian in London. "(They email) their story to the development building where usually a group of developers, men, take care of the story and put it online," she said.

Men choose the news stories that Latin Americans read. They alone wield the power that grants them access to communities enabling them to form connections with readers in those communities. "Enabling women to not only have access to tell their stories digitally, own the digital skills to do so and empowering them with entrepreneurial and leadership skills will allow more women to sit at the main table of decision making when it's time to decide which stories to tell. Giving more balance to these systems would allow both sides of the stories to be told," Santos said.

Santos is trying to empower female Latin American journalists through a movement she founded called Chicas Poderosas. In a series of events in Latin America and the U.S., Chicas Poderosas brings female journalists together, providing them an environment in which they can discuss issues important to them. "Chicas Poderosas is a very comfortable space for women to share their frustrations and the problems they are facing, such as bullying in newsrooms, the glass ceiling or problems with management," Santos said. Chicas Poderosas teaches female journalists and journalism students how to flourish in their careers.

Santos first brought her movement to the U.S. in 2014 with an event at Univision and the University of Miami. It attracted 100 women, and a few men, from Latin America and the greater Miami area. "The reason I brought it to Miami was because I always want to bridge the developing countries with the developed countries," Santos said. Latin Americans fight to solve social and political problems everyday, giving them a different sensibility than those living in the U.S. Through Chicas Poderosas, Santos brings individuals with varying backgrounds and mindsets together, so they can sit at the same table and discuss salient issues in journalism.

Later that year, she organized another event in the U.S. This time it was at Stanford. Santos called the event in Miami a flagship event. She called the one at Stanford a "kick starter."

Learning from Silicon Valley

There's a stark contrast between the lifestyles of those living in developing countries and those who inhabit the cubicles of an Internet startup in Silicon Valley. In many ways the two realities are separated by 100 years of technological progress. The Stanford event brought these two realities together to see what they could learn from one another.

For four days, 30 women journalists from Latin America trained and mentored future female journalists. They shared the most important takeaways of digital storytelling and presented talks on the countless issues women face in media in Latin America. Santos' goal was to train a cadre of ambassadors who could later organize and deliver Chicas Poderosas events in their city, region or country without Santos' direction. "Once I left Latin America, the events stopped happening because I was no longer physically there, so I couldn't organize events myself," Santos said. …

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