Newcomers: Glass Ceiling? What Glass Ceiling?

By Sandy Zwyer

Let me introduce you to a few remarkable women who chose their own path and became leaders in Canadian ethnic media. The following cannot possibly include everyone, or everything about them, although I hope knowing about these women will help to inspire you to learn more about what is possible for ethnic women in Canadian media.

• Madeline Ziniak, National Vice President of OMNI Television, Chair of the Canadian Ethnic Media Association (CEMA) and Member of the Order of Canada “for her contributions as the major driving force behind the development and growth of multilingual and multicultural television in Canada.” If you Google Madeline’s name you will spend all day trying to track down everything she’s done. Suffice it to say that among her many activities, her contribution as Co-Chair of the Task Force for Cultural Diversity on Television has helped to set the benchmark for positive reflection and inclusiveness in the medium.

• Irene Chu, Executive Producer of Once Upon A Time In Toronto, the first-ever collaborative production between Canada and China, and founder of www.gingerpost.com, an online e-zine about Canada’s Chinese community produced in English for maximum access and interest. In 2009, Irene was honoured by the CEMA with its Sierhey Khmara Ziniak Award “for tireless efforts in broadcasting, writing, and the cross cultural initiative of bringing Canada’s Chinese community to a wide multicultural audience through an internet magazine.”

• Anna Chiappa, Executive Director of the Canadian Ethnocultural Council (CEC) and award-winning independent producer of films documenting the inter-connection of Canada and Italy through historical events.

• Hina Ansari, Editor-In-Chief of Anokhi magazine and its companion website, both glossy fashion and entertainment information geared toward South Asian women.

• Rita Deverell, social activist, playwright and Canadian broadcaster, Rita is one of the founders of Vision TV and former Director of News and Current for the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (APTN). Rita has been much honoured for her work in television, including two Geminis, Maclean's Honour Roll of Outstanding Canadians and the Black Achievement Award. She is also a Member of the Order of Canada.

Statistically, women are under-represented in the boardrooms of Canadian media companies. According to the “Global Report on the Status Women in the News Media” released by the International Media Women’s Foundation (IMWF), women in Canada’s news industry still face a “glass ceiling” when it comes to senior management. The lower down the chain of command, the greater the number of women. For example, the report found that in 2009, 55 percent of executive editors, bureau chiefs and news directors in Canada were women.

This might seem impressive until you learn that the Canadian part of the report examined only five newspapers, three television stations, and three radio stations. In comparison, Canada’s ethnic broadcasting services alone include: six television stations; 21 radio stations, and five general-interest, third-language specialty services. However, while statistics have their uses, they cannot possibly take into account the many variables we all face along our respective paths. Nor can they tell us the stories of those who succeeded against the odds.

Sandy Zwyer
Sandy Zwyer has over 30 years’ professional experience in media, including more than a decade as Programme Information Coordinator for OMNI Television, where she managed viewer and media relations. Sandy is a member of the Canadian Ethnic Media Association and has a demonstrated understanding of Canadian ethnocultural communities along with a thorough knowledge of multilingual/multicultural television and broadcast regulations.