Unfortunately, the figures are equally disheartening in other media; one Irish radio station has just two women broadcasters out of fifteen in total. Another – a national station – has just four women presenters out of a total of 21. None of these women broadcasts between the crucial listening hours of 7am and 7pm Monday-Friday.
Yet, women outnumber men in the ‘support’ areas of research and production. So why are so few of them making the transition from support to presentation?
Tackling this problem head-on is Margaret E. Ward, of Clear Ink. Mags has organised a number of ‘Women On Air’ seminars to which women who broadcast – or would like to – are welcome. The seminars have speakers from the industry who share their experiences and ideas with the assembled women. Afterwards, it’s across the road to Buswell’s for a bit of net-working.
While it’s a sad reflection on the state of the industry that ‘Women on Air’ seminars are necessary, their popularity proves their necessity.
Just so you know, we’re not a coven of mad witches sitting around moaning about the fact that the boys won’t give us jobs; we realise that most men in broadcasting are not misogynistic by nature. It’s just that men know other men more than they know women.
Think about it – they go to school with boys, they have male friends at university and they socialise with more men than with women. If you need someone for your programme, you’re most likely to ask someone you know – and if you’re a man, you’re more likely to know other men.
Personally, I have found the seminars very useful and would walk across hot coals scattered with broken glass to attend them. I love the comraderie of women who are in the same industry: Women who are open to the ideas and suggestions of other women, and women who want to help other women.
One man asked me why it was important to have women on air. He pointed out that Miriam O’Callaghan presents Prime Time – so, obviously, women are on air. Yes, there are women on air, just as there are women in politics, but there are not enough.
Quite simply, women and men see things differently, react to things differently and are moved by different things. As women make up 50% of the population, excluding their voices from media means that we are only getting half the story. It also means that a female perspective which is often – but not always – different to a male perspective, is never aired.
Since Margaret started her seminars, I’ve racked up over two hours of radio time, made connections with women I’d never have been able to meet otherwise, and I’ve gained confidence.
I’ve had a piece on the financial state of Ireland published in the Singapore Business Times (which I would never have dreamt of doing a few months ago). I also pitched an idea – and later a regular column – to the editor of a new magazine. She was open to both ideas and commissioned pieces from me. Oh! And invited me to appear on her radio show later in the month.
So, without wanting to appear evangelical, my message is that if you’re a woman with an interest in broadcasting, you need to contact Mags and get yourself an invitation to the next Women On Air seminar.