Lansons Conversations

Women in the media – inspiring change

The theme of International Women’s Day 2014 is “Inspiring Change”. With that in mind, Lansons hosted an event today with inspiring female broadcasters – Sky News business presenter Dharshini David and business news editor Naomi Kerbel – to discuss the lack of female experts in the broadcast media.

Research shows that male experts outnumber female experts by 4:1 on average in the broadcast media, and in some parts of the broadcast media, the ratio has been reported to be even higher at 9:1. Things have improved slightly after Broadcast magazine’s Expert Women campaign and broadcasters pledging to increase the number of expert women interviewed in broadcast news but the representation still does not reflect UK business today, and therein lays the problem.

Getting more women commenting on business issues is not about tokenism or about doing women a favour. We should aim to give a true reflection of UK business today. So let’s look at the facts: a note on The Contribution of Women to the Economy of the UK, prepared ahead of a debate in the House of Lords today to mark International Women’s Day, shows that 20.4 percent of the directors of FTSE 100 companies are women, an increase of 7.9 percent on 2010. In 2012, figures showed that 19 percent of small and medium sized companies were run by women or had a management team that was over 50 percent female, again an increase on 2010 when only 14 percent had a female majority leadership. That is why we need more women on our screens and airwaves. We need more women commenting on business because more women are involved in business.

It may be that the broadcast media have a responsibility to change the image of business reporting and how business is reported. Perhaps the expert on a particular business issue is not necessarily the male CEO but the female deputy? As PR and communication professionals, we also have a responsibility to promote the most qualified, relevant and able spokesperson. It is not about gender, it is about expertise.

So how do we get more women to step forward and share their expertise? Naomi Kerbel, Sky News business news editor says Sky News is actively looking for more female experts. Naomi uses databases such as HerSay and The Women’s Room to source female experts. Twitter is also a valuable resource as are great pitches from companies and PR professionals. According to Dharshini, all you need to be a great female spokesperson is expertise, passion and experience. Let’s hope that next year on International Women’s Day, we have seen an increase in inspirational women sharing their expertise on TV and radio.