Marilyn Goldstein, 80
Newspaper Reporter (Retired from work, but not from life)
Marilyn Goldstein found herself at the forefront of a movement that would go on to shape modern feminism as we know it. While working as a reporter at Newsday in the Sixties, she fought through corporate sexism, and ultimately won a court case for women’s right to promotion and fair wages. “Be proud of being a feminist,’ she says. “Feminist is not a dirty word.”
1. What made you choose this career path? What has been your greatest achievement?
This career path was accidental. Out of college I wanted to become an advertising copywriter- which I did. Then came marriage and a baby. It was 1962– in those days most women never even considered working if they could afford to stop – so I quit. After having a second child and realizing my life was missing a work-related center, I started writing humor pieces about life in the suburbs and sending them to Newsday, then the 6th or 7th largest and most respected U.S. paper. To my surprise, they liked my work and offered me a job on what was then called the Women’s Pages – food, fashion, furnishings, and the goings on in women’s volunteer organizations, such as the PTA.
The Women’s Page was a female ghetto, long gone into oblivion. But, since it was about women, I got there just in time to cover a new movement, then called Women’s Lib. There, I witnessed its slow acceptance and world-shaking advances – and watched women’s ghettos like the Women’s Pages disappear. My greatest achievement was not political. It was raising two caring and daring feminist daughters, who are doing the same with their daughters. But every once in awhile I do think about being one very small part of a movement that changed the world, and I smile.
2. What’s the biggest criticism/stereotype/judgement you’ve faced in your career?
In the early 1970s, with the women’s movement in full swing, my female colleagues got together and filed a Title 7 sex discrimination suit against our employer. I was among the leaders in the suit, so I was the designated city room feminist.
Years later, and thanks to our suit, I rose steadily through the ranks. I knew I was being considered for a position as a columnist, the top of the reporter pole, but I didn’t get chosen that time. Later a male colleague of mine who palled around with the top editors told me the then Managing Editor held me responsible for “all the trouble” (including the fact his wife ran away with his best friend, but that’s another story too). My colleague quoted the Managing Editor as saying, “She’ll never get a column as long as I’m here.” And I didn’t. But shortly after he retired I got my column.
"I paid a price for my activism and leadership."
3. What was the hardest part of overcoming this negativity? Do you have an anecdote you can share?
I paid a price for my activism and leadership. I didn’t get the great promotion I deserved until the Managing Editor who seemed to hold me personally responsible for the entire women’s movement retired. And I don’t regret it one bit. So much progress was made after the suit. Today many of Newsday’s top editors are women.
4. As you #SWAAYthenarrative, do you feel empowered? What has been your emotional reaction?
I just kept being the best reporter I could be, while taking an I action that benefitted the myself and many women. I’ve since realized I was standing on shoulders women who started fighting for decades, even centuries, before me.
5. What’s your number one piece of advice to women discouraged by preconceived notions and society’s limitations?
Be brave. Keep fighting for your rights. Be proud of being a feminist. Feminist is not a dirty word. And be a role model for your daughters and sons, show them you can do what you set out to do, and so can they.
"Be brave. Keep fighting for your rights. Be proud of being a feminist. Feminist is not a dirty word."
I walk into a room full of men and I know exactly what they're thinking: "What does she know about whisky?"
I know this because many men have asked me that same question from the moment I started my career in spirits a decade ago.
In a male-dominated industry, I realized early on that I would always have to work harder than my male counterparts to prove my credibility, ability and knowledge in order to earn the trust of leadership stakeholders, coworkers, vendors and even consumers of our products. I am no stranger to hard work and appreciate that everyone needs to prove their worth when starting any career or role. What struck me however, was how the recognition and opportunities seemed to differ between genders. Women usually had to prove themselves before they were accepted and promoted ("do the work first and earn it"), whereas men often were more easily accepted and promoted on future potential. It seemed like their credibility was automatically and immediately assumed. Regardless of the challenges and adversity I faced, my focus was on proving my worth within the industry, and I know many other women were doing the same.
Thankfully, the industry has advanced in the last few years since those first uncomfortable meetings. The rooms I walk into are no longer filled with just men, and perceptions are starting to change significantly. There are more women than ever before making, educating, selling, marketing and conceptualizing whiskies and spirits of all kinds. Times are changing for the better and it's benefitting the industry overall, which is exciting to see.
For me, starting a career in the spirits business was a happy accident. Before spirits, I had worked in the hospitality industry and on the creative agency side. That background just happened to be what a spirits company was looking for at the time and thus began my journey in the industry. I was lucky that my gender did not play a deciding role in the hiring process, as I know that might not have been the case for everyone at that time.
Now, ten plus years later, I am fortunate to work for and lead one of the most renowned and prestigious Whisky brands in the world.. What was once an accident now feels like my destiny. The talent and skill that goes into the whisky-making process is what inspired me to come back and live and breathe those brands as if they were my own. It gave me a deep understanding and appreciation of an industry that although quite large, still has an incredible amount of handmade qualities and a specific and meticulous craft I have not seen in any other industry before. Of course, my journey has not been without challenges, but those obstacles have only continued to light my passion for the industry.
The good news is, we're on the right track. When you look at how many females hold roles in the spirits industry today compared to what it looked like 15 years ago, there has been a significant increase in both the number of women working and the types of roles women are hired for. From whisky makers and distillers to brand ambassadors and brand marketers, we're seeing more women in positions of influence and more spirits companies willing to stand up and provide a platform for women to make an impact. Many would likely be surprised to learn that one of our team's Whisky Makers is a woman. They might even be more surprised to learn that women, with a heightened sense of smell compared to our male counterparts, might actually be a better fit for the role! We're nowhere near equality, but the numbers are certainly improving.
It was recently reported by the Distilled Spirits Council that women today represent a large percentage of whisky drinkers and that has helped drive U.S. sales of distilled spirits to a record high in 2017. Today, women represent about 37% of the whisky drinkers in the United States, which is a large increase compared to the 1990s when a mere 15% of whisky drinkers were women. As for what's causing this change? I believe it's a mix of the acceptance of women to hold roles within the spirits industry partnered with thoughtful programs and initiatives to engage with female consumers.
While whisky was previously known for being a man's drink, reserved for after-dinner cigars behind closed doors, it is now out in the open and accessible for women to learn about and enjoy too.
What was once subculture is now becoming the norm and women are really breaking through and grabbing coveted roles in the spirits business. That said, it's up to the industry as a whole to continue to push it forward. When you work for a company that values diversity, you're afforded the opportunity to be who you are and let that benefit your business. Working under the model that the best brand initiatives come from passionate groups of people with diverse backgrounds, we are able to offer different points of view and challenge our full team to bring their best work forward, which in turn creates better experiences for our audience. We must continue to diversify the industry and break against the status quo if we really want to continue evolving.
While we've made great strides as an industry, there is still a lot of work to be done. To make a change and finally achieve gender equality in the workplace, both men and women need to stand behind the cause as we are better collectively as a balanced industry. We have proved that we have the ability to not only meet the bar, but to also raise it - now we just need everyone else to catch up.