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Obstacles, hardships, racism — women of color handle it all

Four inspiring women gathered in the LA-5 building Wednesday to discuss their experiences being women of color in journalism and public relations careers.

Media Women of Color shined a light on the challenges and obstacles of working in the media.

“Okay I’m the skunk at the picnic,” Beverly White of NBC4 said. “I could talk for hours about racist and misogynistic episodes in my life. I’ve gone home and cried in the shower because I’m human and it hurts when the viewer calls and says, ‘I love that piece of jewelry you’re wearing and somebody stole one just like it from my house so tell me where you got yours and we can have that conversation.’”

The women talked about being Black, Hispanic and other minorities and how there are hurdles that have to be jumped over. They had to go the extra mile in order to prove how skilled and capable they are in the industry.

Women of color have come a long way in journalism and PR, though. According to Angela Burrell of OCPRSA, Public Relations Society of America, more women have gone into public relations throughout her time in the career.

Burrell said working in journalism comes with the confidence and knowledge that you can do the job. She believes that is what it takes to keeps you going.

“For me personally I’ve experienced being a mom,” said CBS8 reporter and Long Beach State professor, Elizabeth Sanchez. “[I was] traveling 200 days a year working for CBS News as a national correspondent and once I became a mom it was harder to do, so I went back into local news. I think it’s more difficult for a woman with a family than a single male.”

Even though there are obstacles for women of color in journalism and PR, the four women at the panel still encourage and push for students who want to be in the field.

“It really makes me feel grateful and blessed to talk to students because I learn about their enthusiasm for the profession and it’s refreshing,” Melissa Etehad of the LA Times said. “I think it’s more about binding the relationship with students who stay in touch and seeing their journey and seeing them persist along the way.”

While Etehad enjoys seeing the achievements of students in the profession, she too has faced hardships that have made her who she is today.

“I’m Iranian, Jewish and Muslim, so I think I can get hit on both sides of the spectrum,” Etehad said.

Even though gender does play a big role in the workforce, it’s not the only thing that matters, according to White.

“Things have improved,” White said. “I’ve had lots of female bosses. Black female, White female and Asian female. It’s refreshing. The gender doesn’t make it work, but it’s nice to see.”

The four women ended the conference with words of encouragement for people looking to join the field. They urged students to take multiple internships, get involved with student run PR on campus, take advantage of the on-campus groups, build a portfolio and keep in touch with professors.

According to White, college students at this stage in life know how to find their fun and she urges students not to forget that once you get the job you’ve always wanted. She stresses that fun is vital.

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