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“I remember when I became pregnant I burst into tears to my boyfriend and said, ‘I’m going to lose my job’”: Terri White on sustaining a career in journalism as a mother

The former Editor-in-Chief of Empire Magazine revealed to Leeds Trinity students today that she feared for her career once she found out she was expecting a child.

Terri White speaking to students at Leeds Trinity’s Journalism and Media Week

White worked at Empire for six years, but she chose to leave her job after her son was born due to the intense workload that she had on top of being a new mother.

White said: “It was an incredibly difficult decision, I was pretty much heartbroken by it because it was my dream job, but I didn’t see any other solution quite honestly.”

She also expressed her frustration with having to justify herself: “I’m always wary of talking about it too much because I don’t think that women should be the ones having to constantly have the conversation about how we juggle it.”

She discussed her struggles when navigating such a male-dominated industry, and feeling that she had to be “more hardworking and tougher than men.”

Despite this, White called for flexible working to be made accessible for all in the industry, not just women: “Women with children are the tip of the iceberg really.

“I think it’s much bigger than just women and mothers, because there are so many people who would benefit from flexible working.”

She called for action – instead of solely words – to solve this problem. “Publishers speak a lot with the intent of making things better, and they talk very publicly about things like mental health and support around flexi-working – but unless you back up those statements of intent with investment, nothing is going to happen.

“They say ‘oh, work flexibly’…well okay, I’d like to be able to leave at six o’clock every night so I can go see my son – what happens to the work that then isn’t done?”

In addition, White called for greater diversity within the industry to encompass a range of different classes.  

“The fact of having a much more representative, a much more diverse group of people who are producing journalism with a plurality of views, a plurality of perspectives, that can only be a really, really good thing for our industry.”

Jenny Kean interviewing Terri White at Journalism and Media Week

Having battled with serious mental health challenges her whole life, White stated how writing her memoir, Coming Undone, helped her reconcile with her difficult past.

“One day I woke up and realised I didn’t want to die anymore, and I’d wanted to die for pretty much my entire life, and I no longer did, and that was the moment when everything could be different.”

Her memoir has been optioned for television by Bad Wolf – the production company behind His Dark Materials – and she is currently working on her first novel.

Journalism and Media Week is running at Leeds Trinity University from Monday November 8 until Friday November 11.

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