Gwen Ifill Mentee 2020 Reflection

To be a woman, it feels (to me at least), is to be constantly wondering if you are “enough.” Was I firm “enough” with my point—without being considered “bitchy?” Do I look old “enough” to be taken seriously by my more experienced colleagues? Am I talented “enough” to apply for this grant, this job, this program? In a world that constantly doubts us, undermines us, and dismisses us, it can be hard to have the practiced self-confidence, and acknowledged self-worth, to know that we are doing exactly what we need to do and are exactly where we deserve to be.

From start to finish, my journey as an IWMF Gwen Ifill Fellow has surrounded me with a team of cheerleaders in the form of colleagues, program leaders, guest speakers, and mentors. I feel nothing short of privileged to have met so many women in the field who—despite living all over the country, coming from all corners of the industry, and from all walks of life—sympathized with my feelings of insecurity and yet constantly reinforced that I am already “enough.”

I was first encouraged to apply to the fellowship by my friend Hannah Yoon—a Philadelphia photojournalist and Gwen Ifill alumni—who sent me the application and insisted “you need to apply for this!” Hannah gave me the confidence that I was experienced “enough” to apply for this opportunity and, I’m happy to say, she was right!

Then, after being accepted into the fellowship, I was introduced to an incredible cohort of talented, smart, and compassionate female journalists and team leaders. I learned so much from each of the fellows and felt uplifted by them in return. Diana Cervantes, a photojournalist from New York, consistently checked up on the progress of my projects and encouraged me to pitch to publications that I previously thought were beyond my reach. Indrani Basu, a writer from Washington D.C., was one of my biggest sources of comfort when I contracted COVID-19 from a gig in November 2020. At a time when my health felt undervalued by my employers, she reminded me that my physical and mental wellness was a top priority. And, Emma Carew Grovum, a member of the IWMF leadership team, was so kind as to send me pizza money after I published a big story—reminding me to always take time to celebrate my wins.

In various presentations, industry professionals taught the cohort how to know, and feel confident in, our worth. Latoya Peterson, storyteller and technologist, helped us to combat imposter syndrome by instructing us to make a list of what we offer, and reminding us that we are lucky for our jobs but our jobs are also lucky to have us. One of the slides in her presentation literally said, “You were always worthy. You are already enough!” In a separate presentation, CNN correspondent Suzanne Malveaux gave tips on how to take up (and demand) more space as a woman in a male-dominated field.

My biggest cheerleader throughout this process was my mentor, Isadora Kosofsky. I can remember specifically, in one virtual meeting with Isadora, that I shared my worry that I am too emotional to be a great journalist. This is a fear which has been embedded in me as I’ve heard other journalists—most of them older men—talk about the need to completely remove ourselves from the feelings of the story in order to remain “objective.” Isadora helped me realize that my emotions are what allow me to connect so well with the people and topics I am covering—that they do not prevent me from being a good journalist, but are what make me so good. I feel so lucky to have spent the past year learning from her vulnerability, strength, stamina, and commitment as a woman breaking barriers in the industry.

Throughout my past year in the Gwen Ifill Fellowship program, I have gained friends, confidence, and both professional and personal achievements. I still have some insecurities, but I now know that: I am professional enough; I am talented enough; I am “good” enough! And, when I falter in this knowledge, I have my IWMF family to remind me—I am more than enough.