To set our scene. It is yesterday morning. The Today programme is on. There’s a debate about Mehdi Hasan’s article about the political left’s position on abortion. I disagree vehemently with everything he says*, but the thing that makes me curse out loud into the washing up is the opening exchange:
Suzanne Moore: I find myself, yet again, discussing abortion with two men on a programme which is famously bad at representing women, but…
John Humphrys (outraged, interrupting): Sarah was on yesterday! She happens not to be on this morning! But anyway, go on..
And (I hope) a nation of women yelled in harmony – “Because we’re obviously only allowed one!”
There is, famously, only one female presenter on the BBC’s flagship radio news programme. On days when she isn’t on you can go from the 7 o’clock news via the sports report at 7.30 to Thought for the Day at quarter to 8 and hear almost no female voices.
Monday’s Women in Journalism report on the representation of women in the media graphically demonstrated that the male-dominance of Today is not unusual – 78% of bylines on front page stories are for men, 22% for women; 76% of experts quoted in stories are men, 24% are women (almost an exact inversion of the statistics for victims, of whom 79% quoted are women, 21% men).
I went to a Fawcett Society debate at the weekend about the lack of women’s voices in the media, the City and politics. It wasn’t much of a debate, frankly. I guess it’s hard to have a thrilling exchange of views on a subject where everyone is in heated agreement. It’s ludicrous that only 4% of CEOs of FTSE 100 companies are women; that there are more millionaires in the cabinet than women; that there is only one woman editor of a national daily newspaper. And I for one am sick of it and of the glacial rate of change. So, I was cheered to see that the BBC is trying, in a very small way, to do something about increasing the range of voices it listens to.
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