New York–based Rachel Sklar (LLB 1998) is a founding contributor to the Huffington Post and the popular media-industry site Mediaite. And she’s a champion for women in the media and tech fields, too, with her Change the Ratio advocacy group. Lisa Bryn Rundle pries Sklar’s attention away from mobile devices for an interview.
You’ve been featured on lists such as Chatelaine’s 80 Amazing Canadian Women to Watch and the Globe and Mail’s Ten Famous Canadians You’ve Never Heard of. Do you have a favourite list you’ve been included on?
Lists get eyeballs. I was psyched to be on the Silicon Alley 100 list two years in a row. It was recognition – and that’s really the basis of Change the Ratio. There has always been a ratio problem at conferences, panels and on these lists. They typically tend to be disproportionate to the number of women in the fields.
For all the differences from traditional media to new media, is sexism one of the holdovers in your view?
I wouldn’t characterize it as sexism. I think of sexism as something deliberate. That, I think, is one of the reasons why men bristle at these kinds of complaints. They think you’re accusing them of being sexist. It’s more institutional bias. The ease of men referring men.
How does Change the Ratio try to address that?
It’s a lot of back-channel stuff. Addressing things on Twitter. Participating in discussions. I do a ton of matchmaking behind the scenes . . . . It’s a community of awesome women.
Who are helping each other?
Who are just awesome. It’s not the job of women to be 100 per cent behind me in this. We’re 50 per cent of the population, we’re going to disagree. The most important thing that women can do for me in this fight – quote unquote – is be awesome. Because as women rise, I can say: Really, you couldn’t find a woman?
Changing topics slightly . . .
But I haven’t finished on the lists. I loved being on Media Power Bachelorettes, by the New York Observer. I’m usually so annoyed that around Valentine’s Day there are all these lists of “eligible bachelors” whereas women who are unattached are clucked over sympathetically. This was just in rank celebration of 50 powerful in-demand bachelorettes.
You describe yourself on Twitter as a media addict on the loose. What are some of the symptoms of your addiction?
I don’t know, as I’m talking to you I’m clicking through Twitter.
Do you feel personally implicated in the death of traditional media?
God no. I’m not that worried about traditional media. I’m worried about quality; that’s the easiest thing to cut.
You started off as a lawyer. Are there a lot of transferable skills?
Oh yes. Law school forced me to become a clearer thinker and a clearer writer. As a media critic you do have to think hard about process and policy . . . . And there’s nothing I love more than to find five hours to really wonk out on a nice juicy post.