A recent study by the International Women’s Media Foundation found that 73 percent of top media management jobs worldwide are occupied by men compared to 27 percent occupied by women. This despite the fact that women constitute the largest number of students in journalism schools.
While Uganda has made some gains, it is no exception to the rule. To date only two women have held top leadership positions in Uganda’s national newspapers: Barbara Kaija, Editor in Chief of Vision Group, and Carol Beyanga, Managing Editor of Daily Monitor.
Both women have been tested in the cut-throat media market and survived, diligently working their way up the ranks on the sub-editing and features desks. Both are soft-spoken and unflappable, but demand high standards of their staff. They are tough, but fair. They are mothers; they are workers; they are driven.
That is perhaps as far as their similarities go.
36-year-old Carol Beyanga was named Managing Editor of Daily Monitor in January 2015. Her appointment was the result of restructuring at the Namuwongo-based paper that led to the abrupt dismissal of four senior editors, including her predecessor, Don Wanyama. Beyanga did not enjoy the smooth transition that Kaija experienced. In the dark corners of web, more jeers than cheers greeted her. To call it a baptism by fire is no exaggeration.
For Beyanga any acrimony surrounding her appointment is not the story. She tells ACME that her focus is in on transforming Daily Monitor into a true paper of record and moving it from the mundane to the excellence.
“It should be a paper that is worth your money,” she says.
Beyanga joined Daily Monitor in 2003 and worked as a sub-editor, deputy features editor, features editor and more recently, special projects editor. Prior to that she did freelance work for The Sunrise, a weekly newspaper, and had a one-week stint at New Vision.
In her new role, Beyanga will oversee day-to-day operations of the newsroom across its print and digital platforms. She acknowledges that she has much to learn, but is grateful for the mentoring and preparation she received in her previous assignments. She says it was there she learned that it is more important for a person in her position to be a good leader than a smart, good editor.
“You’ve got to know others strengths and weaknesses, as well as your own. You’ve got to create a team that will want to work towards a common goal,” she explains.
Beyanga says that during her time on the features desk she managed all manner of people with all kinds of attitudes towards work and the operations of the paper. With this in mind, her first priority is to transform her staff into a cohesive, effective unit.
“What I would like to do with the team right now is make them realise that they are good because we have really good people and they have lots of talent. I want them to understand that for us to do what we need to do we have to work as a team,” she emphasizes.
Beyanga says it is vital for her to employ “the right people” as she moves forward, “and that they are happy where they are because they are doing what they want to do, they are appreciated, they are being trained and they are being groomed to be even better.”
It is her hope that this will translate into the drastic improvement of the content in Daily Monitor. Already she has seen “bursts” of excellence at the paper and wants to make these a daily occurrence rather than periodic events.
“I want us to think about transformation very, very practically and for us to be very intentional in our plans,” she says.
As part of her strategy, Beyanga says any changes made to the paper will not be forced on her team. She intends to ensure full buy-in to all innovations and administrative measures.
The new managing editor admits that she has taken the reins of a paper that has made several mistakes in the past, which have affected the public’s perception of Daily Monitor. These are not a barrier to her job, she says, but motivation to do better.
Beyanga is cautious about setting timelines for this change because change “will take a while.” So rather than big adjustments to content, she is working on ensuring better writing, accurate reporting and the production of news and opinion that is inclusive, engaging and informative.
From the perspective of her boss, Daily Monitor’s executive editor Malcolm Gibson, Beyanga is up to the job. He describes her as a good leader and a person of exceptional character.
“This young woman has integrity, she always has and always will,” Gibson says.
Still, the new Managing Editor, knows she has a tough job ahead of her. As she adjusts to the restructuring at the paper, builds a solid team and manages her family and home, she looks to New Vision’s Barbara Kaija for inspiration.
“Barbara’s appointment was a big thing for women in the media,” Beyanga says, “I give her kudos because she began it all. She let people know that women can do this.”
Beyanga is excited to be Daily Monitor’s first female managing editor, 23 years after the paper was established. She calls it “an important milestone.”
But she is loath to receive all the attention. She notes that she is not the first or only qualified woman to have held leadership positions Daily Monitor.
“I would cite Loy Nabeta. For me she was one of the best mentors and trainers I have had. She is one person who, if she had stayed longer, would have attained top position.” she enthuses.
Nabeta left the paper after many years as a reporter and editor and moved to Tanzania to take on various editorial and communications positions in the field of international development.
Beyanga says that currently in her newsroom there are many capable and talented women who could easily climb the management ladder. According to her these women “offer valuable insight, they work hard and they bring a different kind of thinking to the newspaper.”
Beyanga also hopes to prove to the women with whom she works that breaking the glass ceiling in the media is not impossible. That “it takes hard work, integrity, faithfulness to the job and obtaining the trust of the people who work with you.”
“I am really honoured and humbled to be in this position,” she tells ACME, “I hope I live up to people’s expectations and cause some real change at Daily Monitor.”