As Sound Women comes to an end, is there still gender inequality in the broadcast industry?


Annie Nightingale by Simon Holt – Image:

It’s been announced that the organisation Sound Women will be disbanded this year.

The organisation was set up to raise awareness for women in audio.

Sound Women has helped women get into the broadcast industry by offering mentoring, training, meetings and special events like Sound Women’s Future Festival.

But, has the broadcast industry progressed with gender equality since Sound Women first started five years ago?

To put simply, gender inequality in the workplace refers to women being discriminated against due to their gender.

In a study conducted by Sound Women in 2013 it was found that only 20 per cent of solo presenter hours on the radio was female.

In 2013 the shared presenter hours for a woman with another woman was only 4 per cent.

The study also found that solo women represent 13 per cent of breakfast show hours and 12 per cent of total drive time hours.

Annie Nightingale the first woman on Radio 1 spoke to London Multimedia News and explains why Sound Women was formed.

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Are there reasons behind the past or present lack of women in the broadcast industry?

One theory is that some women have struggled keeping their jobs in the radio industry once having a child.

An anonymous woman preparing a formal complaint to the BBC explained she felt “humiliated” regarding her treatment after having a child.

Local female breakfast presenter Zoe Hanson explains her experiences with having a child.

Another theory is the technical issue which describes women who either; haven’t been taught how to use the technical equipment or they aren’t trusted to.

David Holdsworth involved in BBC local radio has said an issue that has been identified with some women is “a fear of the technical side of radio”.

There is a theory that women’s voices are seen to be naturally less powerful than men’s.

This can be seen to relate back to the early days of public speaking, that a man’s voice has a far greater vocal power.

The last theory is that simply that people don’t like hearing women on the radio.

Although Sound Women raised awareness of this issue, in the past five years there is still evidence of sexism and a lack of women in the industry.

Radio 2 the most listened to station in the country still has no women in their peak-time line up.

Another example is XFM re-branding to Radio X with the company explicitly marketing the re-brand as the first truly male-focused” station.

However, in the past five years there has also been recognition and change to help further equality for women.

Sound Women aren’t the only women fighting for equality, Miriam O’Reilly a BBC presenter who sued the BBC over sexism set up Women’s Equality Network.

Another example comes from BBC boss Lord Tony Hall and the pledge he made in 2013 to have more women presenting on local BBC radio.

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When Hall made the pledge there was only 20 per cent of breakfast shows on BBC local radio with a woman presenting.

That figure rose to 32 per cent in 2014.

He also helped organise three training days entitled women in radio.

Looking at the future for women in the broadcast industry Maria Williams founder of Sound Women has said gender equality is now “everyone’s business.”

Helen Boaden outgoing director of radio at the BBC has also added that Sound Women has “developed skills and self-confidence in women”.

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