Writing an Op-Ed

Why write an op-ed? 

Contact: Karen Nikos-Rose, Strategic Communications, for more information.

An op-ed can give faculty and staff a first-person platform for showcasing their expertise and how their work benefits society. Today, many outlets including newspapers, online publications, and online placement services, such as The Conversation, run op-eds or essays on various topics.

If you would like to write an op-ed, first read the guidelines of the publication or website you are seeking placement in. In almost all cases, they will require that the op-ed be exclusive. Here are a few examples of instruction pages:

  • The Sacramento Bee instruction pages for letters to editor, opinion and other communications. Most papers have such a page. This will tell the author how long the piece should be, what is accepted and where to send it. Also see how it is done at The San Francisco Chronicle.
  • ScribD helps the author of any piece understand what their content should be for different pieces.
  • The New York Times offers information for aspiring op-ed writers.
  • A New York University professor wrote a blog entry about how and why he writes op-eds. Good advice from an academic on how to write for the masses.
  • The Conversation regularly takes pieces from UC Davis experts. They want faculty to work with them on the piece. Please contact Strategic Communications if you are interested in this publication, and we will assist you with the process.

And here are op-ed samples from various publications by faculty on a variety of topics:

Op-Ed example

This is an example of an op-ed broken down into pieces. It has an introduction to the topic, or an overall statement; it presents a problem; it gives specific examples of the problem; and it has, most importantly, a call to action.

[Set the time, tell us the reason people should care]

This week, senior business executives in 17 cities across the country will talk about diversity on corporate boards and how to increase the number of women to 20 percent or more by the year 2020. We applaud these efforts, knowing much more needs to be done to raise the presence of women at the top of corporate America.

[Present the problem]

The goal for 2020 is set low, but in California, the majority of the largest public companies have a long way to go to reach even that mark.

[Give specific examples after you have set the scene, set out the problem. The stats are not the story, they are the details]

Women hold only 12.3 percent of board seats and the highest-paid executive positions at the 400 largest public companies headquartered in California, according to the annual UC Davis Graduate School of Management study being released Tuesday. That’s a tiny improvement of 0.7 percentage points over last year, even in a state that is one of the most progressive.

In the public sector, efforts to increase the representation of women have made more progress. Nationally, women hold 20 percent of U.S. Senate seats, 19 percent of U.S. House seats and more than 20 percent of seats in state legislatures.

In the corporate sector, we have yet to truly understand and act on the need for more diverse leadership. The role of these firms in all of our lives, however, requires us to pay more attention to this issue. Together, the 400 Golden State companies represent nearly $5 trillion in stock market value and include global leaders in technology, health care, consumer products and pharmaceuticals. These companies dominate their markets and offer familiar products and services.

Yet only two — Williams-Sonoma based in San Francisco and LTC Properties in Westlake Village — have at least as many women as men in top executive positions and board seats.

[Have some good things to say]

On the bright side, progress is being made over the long term. The number of women in these key decision-making roles has inched up from 9.6 percent in 2010 to 12.3 percent today. This year, the number of companies with no women board members and executives dropped below 100 (to 92) for the first time in the 11 years of our study.

The number of female CEOs is on the rise, up from 14 to 17, a 21 percent increase this year, and a 55 percent increase since 2006. Companies with female CEOs also have, on average, 38 percent more women among their highest-paid executives and board directors.

[Progress toward the call to action; or say something emotional to build up a reason to act]

Universities and business schools in particular must lead in helping companies and their leaders adapt to meet the needs of the 21st century workforce. We will continue to monitor trends, break down barriers and provide equal opportunity for our graduates.

[How did we or should we act]?

In August, the UC Davis Graduate School of Management joined 45 peer business schools at the White House to focus on opportunities to work with corporations to encourage success for women in business and to help companies incorporate the full range of talent and diversity of workers.

[Call to action]

We call on business leaders to take a hard look at the diversity of perspectives, backgrounds and experience on their teams. If you do not see many women, your firm and your stockholders may not be as well-positioned as possible to keep your company competitive and adequately address the risks, challenges and opportunities ahead.