Home making and power play, the mystery for female journalists.

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Pamela Sittoni of the Daily Nation (left) with Paula Fray of Fray Inter Media during the Media Women Boot Camp in Naivasha, Kenya last Month.  

“If you sit there and continue being a nice lady, you don’t raise any dust, you will sit there forever and nobody will notice you.” Daily Nation Executive Editor, Pamela Sittoni. 

Naivasha-Kenya: World over, as women Empowerment and emancipation advance to give women more opportunities to take up top leadership positions not only in government but in parastatals or companies, the challenge to perform and balance traditional with collar duties is uncertain. As Pamela Sittoni, the Managing Editor at The Daily Nation puts it, you must be super human to juggle all the office work and still be a good mother and wife back home.

Sittoni says from the start of a career, one must get the support of their spouse for the marriage and family to stand strong for a career woman. But one must prepare before they embark on a journey of no return, especially when children are in the bigger picture in one’s career.

Sittoni is the new Executive Editor at The Daily Nation in Kenya after serving as Editor with the East African Newspaper which circulates in the region, from 2012-2018.

At 25 years, Pamela Sittoni was armed with the most powerful leadership weapon that her mother had equipped her with at a tender age,

“The only difference between you and your brothers is the physical strength,” Sitoni recalls her mother’s repeated words that helped her rise to the top most leadership position in Kenya’s Most powerful media, The Standard Newspaper.

Sitoni started out as a young enthusiastic journalist in 1993 after completing a post graduate diploma in Journalism from Nairobi University to fulfill her childhood dream. She holds a Degree in literature and Anthropology too. 

“I joined journalism because that is what I had always wanted to be. It was my wish to be a journalist rights from high school.”

Working with the Daily Nation as a reporter for one year, she was promoted to become the sub editor. She worked at the sub Editor Desk for quite some time before she was promoted to a strange position, the deputy assistant chief sub editor then she was made deputy Chief Sub Editor after a few years before she became the chief sub editor.

“This was a very slow rise. But I would not say it was a slow rise because I am a woman, it was a slow rise even for my male colleagues. The media is a very stifling place. You can actually feel stifled because there are only very few positions up. The base is very wide but as you go up, it becomes very narrow and very competitive.”

The roles that came with the title did not spare her the struggle between maintaining a home as a wife and taking care of her first born child.

“Often I got very frustrated about the positions. When I was a sub editor I remember I applied for a number of positions outside the newsroom because I was frustrated about the poor pay, the poor working hours, the poor working conditions.”

In 2003, she joined The Standard Media Group as the Deputy Managing Editor because she was looking for professional media growth. After a year, the Managing Editor left and she assumed the position.

In July 2006, Sittoni left the media all together and joined the United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF.

She recalls how she gave birth to her first and second born while at the sub editor’s desk. She dreaded the long hours in the newsroom and at times would have to call her sister in Nairobi to help pick her children from school or take them to the hospital for medication before she catches up with them from a critical meeting or a deadline that has to be met.

“These are the things that as women who have gone up in the media, we don’t talk much about because it looks like you have to be almost super human to manage to be a woman in the media and to succeed. I didn’t need to be super human but it was a very difficult time having small children and working crazy hours. A lot of times I relied mostly on the telephone and the support of a reliable house help and knowing that I had a sister within Nairobi to step in anytime I needed help at home when I was stuck at work.”

Sittoni believes having a network of a support system to help the working mother and an understanding husband who understands the demands if the journalism work lessens the pressure on newsroom women in top leadership positions. She was lucky because her husband was once a journalist and so he knew what he was getting into from the start of their relationship.

But Sittoni advises Media managers too to consider the period when a woman is productive.

“There is a very short time when it will be that tough. After a while, you are just available like any other staff in the newsroom. You know this thing of not giving women positions because they have to take time off when the baby is sick, or they are going on maternity leave, if you have a good journalist, you should allow them because it is a very short time.”

She believes that a woman can live a normal life as long as she knows why she is in the media and respecting herself.

Her view is that being a woman is never an excuse not perform well if equal chances are given.

“I went to my work place performing not less than my male colleagues. Whatever assignment I was given, I made sure that I did it exceptionally well so that no one complains that because it was given to a woman, it did not work. “

She adds that the opportunities for women in the media are as many as there are for the men. It’s just up to the women to know how to get them. She says that one has to know where they are and set their goals if they believe in journalism, just like any other career or organization.

Sittoni urges media women to study the trade if they have a heart for it.

“When you have studied anything else, you might have writing skills but there are certain professional skills that you acquire when you do a journalism course. So it’s important to actually study journalism, understand journalism and not just be a good writer. “

Sittoni says that because of the inherent biases within the media that makes women to at times not to get the same chances in top leadership positions. Some are taken to corners to write what the editors think women should be writing. Much as the corners are important, Sittoni says they should be out of choice but not because a journalist is a woman.

She understands the traditional African setting that limits women to being submissive and not speak much but urges women to come out of their comfort zones, trying to proof themselves worth any position.

“They think it is not right to speak out sometimes. They imagine if you are good, somebody should lealise and pick you out from the crowd. But we are in a very competitive society. Men know how to compete, they know how to network and they know how to lobby and so if you sit there and continue being a nice lady, you don’t raise any dust, you will sit there forever and nobody will notice you. Women must have some level of ambition. If you sit in the newsroom as a desk editors for five years, you should really decide that if I can’t move up next year then I should move out and do something different.”

She adds,

“You can’t sit in the same position for ten years.  Once you do that, the people around you will think there is something wrong with you.”

As a mother of three children, two at the University aged 19 and 22 and the other still 9 years old, Sittoni says ones job should bring them personal-gratification and not just financial gain. To her, there is an individual choice that one makes before climbing up the ladder in leadership because it can cause a rift in a marriage where the husband does not understand the nature of his wife’s work.

“How far can a man stop you? What are your liberties within your relationship? Are you going in as an equal partner or just his property? These are discussions that you should have before you decide who you want to marry.”

 Sittoni got her last born during her work with UNICEF when she said she had enough time for her family.

And now back at the Daily Nation as the Executive Editor, her daughter will grow up just like any other child of a journalist, getting used to Mummy working long hours and trusting others to care will she is at work.

But besides everything else about journalism, Sittoni plans to retire as a journalist. She turns 50 years in July, 2019.

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