I remember the moment quite vividly. Standing in an airport terminal, waiting for the second connecting flight of the day, and watching, aghast despite already knowing the back story, as a TV news ticker announced Saudi Arabia had finally given women the right to vote. That was less than six months ago.
Here in the West we like to promote the idea of progressivism, liberalism, and equality. It’s a ridiculous notion, though. Anyone who has ever lived in this part of the world will know only too well that the level playing field has hidden slopes. In fact, often times they’re not even hidden at all. The media is one such playing field.
The Smoking Gun blog has made a habit of analysing the The Guardian’s annual Media 100 list, which ranks the most powerful players in the games of marketing, PR, journalism, publishing, digital, social and just about any other sector linked to the industry. And we’ve been quick to pick up on the clear lack of female representation; as have many other eyes at many other websites and publications. After all, numbers rarely lie.
It seems any hope of this situation changing remains just that- hope. The Press Awards shortlist was announced recently, and therein lies the same story. Or at least one that’s depressingly similar. Men dominate the contenders, and whilst you could argue this is because men dominate this discipline, as they do so many others, that fact is not an explanation so much as a reality we should all be ashamed of. As is regularly the case, the glass ceiling is far lower for women than it is their male counterparts, with senior roles at countless agencies still part and parcel of the patriarchy.
Something has to change, clearly. But what? Although I’ve never employed staff for any reason other than their skills and expertise, I’m proud to have so many women in the office here on Bridge Street, and at the upper end of the pay scale too. Yet this issue is endemic, and regardless of whether you’re selling marketing campaigns, newspapers or poultry, it’s an issue that must be addressed up front, rather than ignored or whitewashed amid the same old claims that we are now gender-blind and beyond the age of prejudice.
Taking this into account, it’s both reassuring and devastating that Words By Women awards have just been launched. Established by five female scribes- who collectively boast portfolios veering from Sky News to Vice, Guardian to Telegraph, Dazed to Metro- nobody can blame them for being ‘sick of the lack of recognition for women in the male dominated media’, but like the homeless outreach project set up by concerned citizens due to a lack of central government funding (of which there are many), that these individuals had to be pro-active and do something themselves to rebalance the landscape a little is indicative of how many hurdles remain in place for anyone who isn’t a man.
In short, then, it’s 2016 people- surely by now it’s time to put some money where our equality-spouting mouths are…