Olenka Frenkiel’s piece in today’s Guardian about sexism and ageism at the BBC reminded me of something I really need to do when I’m Queen.
At the everyday ageism conference I was in a session about the invisibility of women over the age of 50 on TV. “Think of some solutions”, encouraged the Chair of the session. “The crazier the better – what’s the thing we could do that would make a difference if only we dared?”
“So what”, I thought – slightly flippantly – “if, every time a presenter or lead reporter of a news or factual programme at the BBC retired/resigned/moved on, they had to be replaced with someone of the opposite gender? I’m not planning to sack anyone. Just neatening up the balance by a process of evolution.
Think how different the world would look. We could have a female economics editor, business editor, political editor, arts editor, and social affairs editor telling us what gives on the 10 O’clock News. We could have a female chair of Question Time, a female presenter of This Week, a female-fronted equivalent of the Marr Show on a Sunday morning. There would be female presenters on Mastermind, University Challenge, Match of the Day, Top Gear and Gardener’s World. The General Election coverage of 2020 would be fronted by a woman. We’d have to concede ground on Watchdog and Antiques Roadshow. And Great British Bake Off would eventually have three male presenters and a lone woman, but I feel it would be a price worth paying.
It will, of course, never happen. But something needs to. I came up with this list off the top of my head, first thing in the morning and against the clock – I’ve got a train to catch. I bet there are lots more I could have added. And the question I’m left with, is why does it feel so utterly normal that all of those jobs are done by men? What if? Why not?