A few months ago, I was on a panel with the inspirational journalist Miranda Sawyer at Cheadle Hulme School. A bunch of us “media-types” had been invited to inspire the incredibly talented teenagers in the audience, that a career in the creative industries was well worth the hard work, and while immensely frustrating for loads of reasons, was actually “the best job in the world.” This panel were mostly women – music journalists, news journalists, writers, presenters, company directors, actors and producers. It was a great night, a fantastic panel (there were some men too who were pretty good!) and the kids were well and truly inspired – hopefully by me a little, but also by Sally Dynevor (Coronation Street), Kelly Crawford (BBC Breakfast), Keira Barlow (MUTV) and Georgina Bowman (Newsround). These women – and more – prove every day that talented, creative, articulate women have a voice.
How depressing then to read this piece in the Conversation this week:
According to the piece male contributors on TV and radio still outnumber women by three to one, and that’s an improvement from six to one in 2011. And when women do appear in broadcast news they tend to be interviewed about their personal experience, as victims of crime, as parents or as consumers. They tend to appear far less as authoritative experts.
As a journalist for the past 25 years, and an expert in media communications and training for the past decade, I have worked with some of the most compelling, authoritative, passionate and intelligent women. From lawyers, doctors, education and academic experts, to retail executives, senior transport directors and business leaders. Every one had the ability to communicate in a way which was engaging, yet with real expertise, authority and clarity. Many of them started their training day with me with apprehension, and a tiny minority initially suffered from a lack of confidence in their ability to communicate well on TV and radio. One day’s training was all it took to give them an insight into how the media work and the confidence to embrace TV and radio interviews.
There now needs to be a shift in the mentality of programme producers to step away from the trusty little black book of the tried and tested “experts” on the contact list. The ones we see on our screens day after day and week after week. Let’s find new ones – and let’s make sure they properly reflect the society we live in.