St. Louis Business Journal’s recent package on the city’s 25 Most Influential Business Women included CEOs, presidents, nationally recognized financial advisors, attorneys, and entrepreneurs—and 24 absolutely adorable pairs of shoes.
That’s right: shoes. For reasons that defy understanding, St. Louis Business Journal chose to include, as part of its coverage, a photo gallery of the featured women, each holding “the pair of shoes that best describes them.” One subject declined, citing travel.
“While some in the newsroom initially balked at the idea, it turned out to be the perfect filter to show readers the best qualities of these 25 spectacular business women,” wrote Vince Brennan, managing editor of the St. Louis Business Journal.
“Vince, one editor to another: Next time, listen to the newsroom,” wrote Sarah Fenske at The Riverfront Times. Fenske, the editor in chief of The Riverfront Times, calls the piece a “missed opportunity.”
“As the (relatively) new girl in town, I realized I had a million questions for these women. I wanted to know how they’d found a mentor, how they balanced being a badass with living up to the world’s expectations of nicety, how they negotiated that last raise. I didn’t have a single question about their footwear.”
— ZSmith (@ZSmith122) August 17, 2016
Fenske notes that PayScale’s report, Inside the Gender Pay Gap, found that women and men in the St. Louis area had the largest pay gap in the country—4.3 percent, when comparing only women and men with the same job titles and experience.
“To me, the PayScale study I linked in my story was an eye-opener. In St. Louis, women aren’t being paid what men are. And that’s a real problem,” Fenske says in an email with PayScale. “And until women are taken seriously both in the boardroom and in our business publications, not just portrayed as silly gals who love to shop, I doubt that’s ever going to change.”
Asked what it means for working women when the most influential businesswomen are asked to show off their shoes, Fenske says:
“I think it says we still have a long way to go—which is all the more reason this story seems so boneheaded. As professional women, we’re constantly being judged for how we look, dress, and act in ways that I think would be unfathomable to men with similar jobs. And so when professional women are finally getting some props—when a media outlet focused on business decides to shine some light on their achievements—it’s even more important to keep the focus on what matters: Their jobs, and how they’re kicking ass at them.”
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