Why invest in media engagement training for women scholars and administrators?

Unconscious bias operates in academia as elsewhere, and women remain under-represented in university leadership positions as a result, costing institutions the benefits of diversity.

Providing female faculty members with professional development opportunities tailored to their needs that support them in embracing leadership and profile-raising opportunities, is one concrete way to help address this problem. A number of the women we’ve trained in the past ten years have since risen to senior administrative positions, and believe the enhanced profile they gained through media commentary helped position them for promotion.

Governments and research funding councils are demanding more knowledge mobilization.

SSHRC, NSERC and CIHR all increasingly emphasize the value of sharing research knowledge with the broader public in ways that help citizens make sense of complex issues. But most scholars have limited experience communicating with a lay audience, and their value in providing context through the media is often compromised by the use of overly conceptual and inaccessible language, and a failure to frame issues in ways others can relate to. Applied skills training from facilitators who understand both academia and the news media helps.

Media commentary connects your scholars to society, increases their agency and impact.

A number of the women we’ve trained have realized direct and measurable public policy impact as a result of their media engagement. One was contacted by both federal and provincial finance officials in response to her op ed on balanced budget legislation. Another had her analysis read aloud during legislative debates, which ultimately helped to change government policy. A third told us she felt she had more impact on ocean conservation with one op ed than all of her academic publications combined.

Scholars’ shared insights reinforce the relevancy of your institution, and the value of research.

Many universities advertise in Canadian newspapers as part of their communications and marketing efforts. Published commentary is an enormously valuable complement to that. Earned media is more credible than advertising, and helps to build an institution’s reputation for research excellence, thought leadership and relevance to the community.

Profile-raising precedes fundraising.

When your researchers contribute to public discourse, their identified affiliation with your institution reinforces your brand name, and makes graduates and donors feel good about their own association. It also reminds government officials that you’re playing an active role in the communities you serve. That profile and the associated feelings make it easier for your advancement team to persuade funders to support you.