What do you want to be when you grow up?
Heidi Wigdahl didn’t know until she was watching TV after school in Alexandria, Minnesota, and a woman who looked like her appeared on the screen.
“Seeing Lisa Ling, the first person who kind of looked like me, it all of a sudden clicked: I can maybe do that too,” she said.
Kristen Aguirre never had that moment as a kid. She thought she couldn’t be on TV because none of the women on Chicago’s local English-language news had the same color of hair as hers.
“That’s one of the reasons I wanted to get into the business,” she said: so there would be someone like her on the news.
Wigdahl is now a multimedia journalist at KARE 11 in Minneapolis, and Aguirre is a weekend anchor and MMJ at KUSA in Denver. They were two of the 160 people who attended the sold-out Women in Visual Journalism Conference in Denver in September. Anyone is welcome to attend, but all presenters are women.
Because even after women answer that question as kids about what they want to be when they grow up, we need mentors and teachers who look like us too.
Anne Herbst, the director of visual journalism at KUSA and co-organizer of the conference, revived the women’s conference in 2015 after about a six-year hiatus. She thought it was important to do something, as she experienced being one of the only women presenting at other NPPA photojournalism conferences.
“I was going to these other conferences, and I’d be the only female (presenting), and I’d get approached a lot by other female photojournalists and MMJs saying, ‘I didn’t know there were other female photographers out there,’ ” she said.
Her hope was for other conferences to make use of the high-caliber female faculty from the WIVJ conference website by signing them up for other such events.
“Sort of like a speaker vending machine,” she laughed.
That hasn’t happened.