Magazines Canada Highlights Women in Publishing

Magazines Canada is proud to feature Melony Ward Director of Business Enterprise/Publisher for Canada’s National History Society and President, Board of Directors for National Media Awards Foundation. Melony Ward joined Canada’s National History Society in 2014. She is an award-winning leader in the cultural and not-for-profit media sectors. At the society, Melony is responsible for multi-platform media programs, as well as special projects. Her areas of expertise are media strategy, marketing, partnership development, government relations, audience engagement, revenue generation and project management. She is an enthusiastic cultural advocate, and is inspired by the power of art, writing, and history to help us understand our contemporary lives. She holds an MA in philosophy from the University of Toronto.

What ignited your passion for the publishing industry?
Definitely the people, whether they are writers, designers, editors, audience development experts, digital pros or sales. Every department is a creative one. I remember walking into my first Magazines Canada conference when I was still a student, with my own indie magazine. It was a thrill to meet people who knew how to make things. So many people I have met have been generous and collegial. They have shared their expertise, best practices, and trade secrets.

What do you love most about the not-for-profit media sector?
It’s all the great people from the publishing world, with the additional layer that we are focused on mission. I’m constantly learning about subjects I find fascinating: visual art, design, architecture, history. I spend a lot of my time these days working on educational publications, which gives our organization, Canada’s History Society, the opportunity to work with partners like the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation and the Ontario Black History Society. We’re collaborating now on a kids’ publication about Chinese Canadian history, and the stories are incredible. It is rewarding to know that we will be able to share those stories with hundreds of thousands of people.

What advice would you give to up-and-coming young women in the publishing industry? 
My advice would be to make time to meet other people in our industry, and adjacent industries. Absolutely nothing can replace conversation and staying curious.

Over the last couple of years, with COVID viruses circulating, I have been meeting up occasionally with industry colleagues for picnics in the park. It has been great way to get a fresh perspective. Whether you are meeting at a picnic table, going to a fundraising lunch and learn, a feminist wikithon, or an awards event, there are people to meet and learn from.

Our industry has experienced constant change since I got into it, and I think curiosity helps us to think through challenges more adeptly. Eight years ago, I went to an afternoon event for the University of Toronto engineering faculty and heard a leading computer science professor talking about neural networks and artificial intelligence. It was very technical and way over my head, but I got a glimpse of the shifts that are now playing out in AI. There are more formal programs for creating relationships too. I’m on the board of the National Media Arts Foundation, and our BIPOC mentorship program has been excellent in connecting people.

Finally, I recommend learning more about other departments in your organization. We do our best work when we are collaborating. Editors can learn from circulators, marketers can learn from writers, business development can learn from production.

If you could change one major aspect about the publishing industry with a snap of your finger, what would it be?
I’m going to have to list a few: 1) more diversity in senior positions; 2) contracts that provide a fair balance between publisher legal protection and a freelancer’s right to earn a living; 3) simplified and timely payment to freelancers 4) a customer-relationship system that covers every fundraising and subscriber care requirement and 5) a way to fund all the nominees to come to the National Magazine Awards! (Thank you to the women’s social media group that provided input for the answer to this question.)

In your own words how do you feel women impact the publishing industry?
I work mostly in not-for-profit, where women are the majority of the workforce. Compared to the for-profit sector, there are more women in leadership positions. But a study from the US noted that women of color with the highest levels of education are the most likely to be in administrative roles and the least likely to hold senior leadership positions. We have the same issues in Canada, which is why I was very pleased for the NMAF to launch the BIPOC mentorship program. The intention is to provide professional development support for people from racialized communities so that they can advance in their careers, towards leadership positions.