By her own account, Joann Lublin of Ridgewood got into journalism in the fourth grade.
“We decided to start a newspaper,” said Ms. Lublin, the Wall Street Journal’s management news editor, recalling her days at an elementary school in Syosset, Long Island. “We had a contest and my name won: ‘Walt Whitman News and Views.’”
While the work she has done since has had considerably more impact — in 2003, she was a member of a WSJ team that was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for a series exposing corporate scandals — she still remembers her first interview. “I asked the school nurse how she knew when to send a kid home. She said, ‘I take their temperature. If they have a fever, we call their mothers.’” Now, she points out, the nurse might well call their fathers instead.
A longtime member of Temple Beth Or in Washington Township, Ms. Lublin will speak at a meet-the-author breakfast on December 4 about her recent book, “Earning It: Hard-Won Lessons from Trailblazing Women at the Top of the Business World,” published by Harper Collins. The book includes anecdotes from her own career as well as stories detailing the experiences of 52 women at the highest rungs of the corporate ladder. At the end of each chapter are “leadership lessons” drawn from the narrative.
Ms. Lublin majored in journalism at Northwestern College and got her master’s degree in communications from Stanford University. During her college years, she landed a job as a summer intern at the Wall Street Journal. “I was hired by the Journal straight out of college,” she said. That was 45 years ago.
She has since worked at various bureaus throughout — and outside — the country. Starting as a reporter in San Francisco, she transferred to Chicago in 1973 so that her husband, also a journalist, could complete his graduate studies. From there she moved to Washington, where she covered labor issues, housing and urban affairs, and other beats. In 1987 she was named news editor of the Journal’s London bureau, and became its deputy bureau chief in 1988. She transferred to New York in 1990.
She and her husband, Michael, who have two grown children and two grandchildren, have lived in Ridgewood since 1990. “We’ve been members of Beth Or since we moved here,” she said. “You know you’re getting old when your daughter went to sleep-away camp with your new rabbi,” Rabbi Noah Fabricant.
One of the first female reporters at the Wall Street Journal, Ms. Lublin created its first career column more than 20 years ago. “Your Executive Career,’’ the advice column she writes now, appears every month. She also writes about issues such as executive compensation, corporate governance, recruiting, and management succession.
When she first began working, “There were about a dozen women at that point, all reporters,” she said. One woman was a copy editor. That was the highest rank [for women] then. But shortly afterwards, she married a guy at the paper. They had a nepotism rule. One of them had to quit.” It being the 1970s, the woman copy editor had to go. Today, however, that rule has been “greatly relaxed.”
One of the biggest issues Ms. Lublin faced as a business journalist was that she had to cover events at private clubs that didn’t admit women. “To cover that, I had to go in the back door,” she said. “Worse than that, one year later I entered the press club journalism contest and won honorable mention.” The other winners were men. “They wanted me to boycott the dinner, since it didn’t admit women. But my attitude was, ‘No. I should go and prove that their policy is wrong.’ I felt proud to be honored and to be able to show up. They changed their policy within a few years.” She recalls also that when she went to a luncheon at Washington’s National Press Club, “I was told I had to sit in the lady’s gallery at the top of the building.”
Her new book, which includes several chapters of her own stories and grew out of an essay she wrote for an earlier WSJ blog, contains many “funny stories.” Some, however, are more serious, dealing with such issues as sexual harassment.
On December 4, “I’ll tell stories about what it was like when I first joined [the WSJ],” she said. “On my first day in the San Francisco bureau, I noticed that some of the men had pinup calendars.” Undaunted, she went out and bought her own calendar — with male nudes. “That lasted 24 hours.” Somehow, her calendar disappeared. But when she left the bureau to move to Chicago, her colleagues presented her with a fold-up card depicting “a man in his birthday suit.”
The other professionals cited in her book are high-ranking corporate women she has written about over the years, as well as one woman she discovered on the internet. While many faced similar challenges, their stories reflect different experiences. Common to all of them, she said, are the character traits of “resilience — they did not allow setbacks to beat them down — and persistence in the face of problems or issues that would seem intractable to the normal mortal.”
She cited “the wonderful Abbe Raven, who wanted to break into the TV business and knew nothing.” Wanting to get a job interview at the startup company that ultimately became A&E, she learned the name of the man she had to talk to “and called the guy five times a day for 10 days. On the tenth day, she did the old trick of calling at 6:30 or 7 at night.” He answered. While Ms. Lublin said that you have to read her book to get the full story, that woman ultimately became the chief executive at A&E.
“The book is broken down by various topics,” Ms. Lublin said. “There are stories about many different women and the different ways they cope, whether with sexual harassment, or managing men well, or in facing the ‘career couple conundrum.’ Whose career takes priority?”
Each chapter ends with leadership lessons drawn from the chapter or from women whose stories have not been included. One lesson, dealing with the career couple conundrum, suggests taking a “tag team approach in deciding whose career takes priority,” with one partner pursuing a professional surge for five years before deferring to the other.
On the issue of executive presence, readers are advised to “object diplomatically when a male colleague steals credit for your ideas.” It is also suggested that you are more likely to be heeded if you sit in the middle of the conference table, since you can look both left and right and can project your voice better.
Ms. Lublin said that when she talks about the presidential election, the challenge she focuses on is “how this will affect working women.” With the victory of a candidate who does not have working women as a high priority, “it is all the more important for women who care about advancing to read my book.”
Who: Journalist/author Joann Lublin
What: Will speak about her book, “Earning It: Hard-Won Lessons From Trailblazing Women at the Top of the Business World,” at a sisterhood-sponsored meet-the-author breakfast
When: On December 4, at 9:15 a.m.
Where: At Temple Beth Or, 56 Ridgewood Road, Washington Township
Reserve your seat by Friday, December 2. Call the synagogue at (201) 644-7422, or email Julie.Kerzner-Keery@wellsfargo.com.