The switch to becoming editor of the Sunday section, which came when Saarikoski was just 31 years old, proved a refreshing change, with any hostility or prejudice she experienced stemming from her comparative youth rather than her gender.
“In the Sunday section there were lots of strong women. I think classical stereotyping wouldn’t have worked, since there were ardent feminists there,” she points out. “At the Sunday features desk, there were about 8 people working at the time and it was half men half women.”
Different Treatment For Women
Over the course of her career, Saarikoski has also found that there are times when being a female journalist can be an advantage, giving women journalists opportunities not necessarily available to their male colleagues. Sensitive interview opportunities abroad, she points out, might well get given to a woman who is perceived as less threatening, particularly in Muslim countries.
It also seems that positive discrimination may be starting to work in women’s favour. “The sensitivity about equality between the sexes nowadays has forced many employers to always consider both men and women for all the top jobs, so i guess I may have been sometimes considered because of my experience, but also because i am a female,” admits Saarikoski.
With two young children of her own, Saarikoski has experienced first-hand just how difficult it is to balance a hectic journalism career with the demands of having a family. The key to managing it, she argues, is to have a supportive and understanding partner.
“I think especially female journalists, because we don’t live in an equal world, have to be very careful who they choose as a partner if they want to continue working as journalists once they have kids. They have to have someone who is supportive of their career and who is in practice willing and able to pick up the kids from the day care”
“My salvation was that I was an editor at the time when I had kids, so i was more in control of my own time. I was able to sometimes leave work early, pick up the kids from the daycare and then continue working in the evening after they had gone to bed,” she adds.
Words of Advice
So what advice would she give to women looking to try and break into the world of journalism?
On a practical note, make sure you “choose your spouse wisely”, ensuring that your partner is not just willing to shoulder their share of the family responsibilities, but also has the time and professional arrangements necessary to do so.
Any would-be journalist also needs to develop a thick skin and prepare for potential hostility from all sides, however unexpected. Nor can female journalists count on the backing of fellow women in the profession, purely on account of gender. Not all women are automatically supportive of a woman as their boss. Perhaps that is as it is supposed to be after all, there are many different kinds of women and there is more to an individual woman editor than her sex
Above all else, she says, you need to have a real love for the job. “You have to love this career or choose another one because it is not going to be something that pays a lot of money and it is not going to be something that’s easy, so you have to have a deep love for this field to be able to do it for a long time.”