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Career development for journalists-turned-parents in Korea

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Managing work and home life is never an easy task, and parents around the world would agree that it doesn’t get any simpler with children. Now couple that with a career in journalism: if parenting is a full-time job, the news never stops either.


For reporters in Korea, the pursuit of worabael, or "work-life balance," means making a difficult choice between advancing their careers and spending time with their families. Taking parental leave can be a major career setback—so parents working in the news industry either don’t take leave, or suffer the consequences when they do. It’s a situation that disproportionately affects women, even as the number of female reporters in Korean newsrooms grows. 


To help overcome these barriers, the Google News Initiative (GNI) has partnered with the Journalists Association of Korea and HeyJoyce—Korea’s largest community for women—to create a leadership program that supports reporters’ career development while on parental leave, so they’re ready to return after a period away. The 10-week curriculum aims to develop the journalists’ understanding of newsroom operations and how to introduce new technologies and business models, with instruction and mentoring from senior editors and academics. 


What’s different is that all the participants are invited to bring their children along. While the first cohort of 18 journalists attend sessions, they don’t have to worry about childcare. Professionals from JARANDA—a childcare-matching platform led by Seojung Chang, a member of Google’s 2017 Campus for Moms initiative in Seoul—look after the kids. And catering company Unor, founded by a mother-daughter team, provides the food.

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Korean startups provide child-minding and food for journalists taking part in the courses.

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The classes help new parents keep up their skills and learn how to lead through change in the news industry.

The program aims to show a different, more positive approach to work-life balance in Korea. 


Naree Lee, the CEO of HeyJoyce, knows how critical this kind of support for new parents can be. “I worked for 20 years as a journalist and experienced serious difficulties keeping up with work and caring for my children at the same time; I considered quitting every day. I was also anxious about falling behind my colleagues in such an intensely competitive environment,” she said. “Programs like these will help build concrete skills, so the participants won’t have to go through what I did.”


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“Throughout the decade I spent working at a newspaper, I had many concerns about the future of journalism,” said Sewon Yim, a reporter from the Seoul Economic Daily. “Through this program, we were able to express our worries and share possible solutions.”

The pilot program in Korea will conclude this spring and, together with our partners, we plan to expand it to returning parents in newsrooms across Asia-Pacific.

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