Women broadcasters are making some progress - but there is still a way to go

Women broadcasters are making some progress – but there is still a way to go

But the war is far from won

Is it time to throw our hats in the air to celebrate the success of women broadcasters in Ireland?

Audiences for programmes presented by women are up. And new shows targeted at women are being launched.

It’s tempting to think that women are finally being equally represented in the media.

Alas, that’s still not the case. But first the good news.

Women presenters win listeners

According to the latest JNLR figures, Claire Byrne’s audience on RTÉ Radio One has increased by 25,000 while Miriam O’Callaghan’s audience has grown by 12,000.

By contrast, with the exception of the station’s women presenters and Seán O’Rourke, all other shows on Radio One lost listeners.

Meanwhile, Newstalk has launched the Colette Fitzpatrick Show which, Fitzpatrick said, will “give women a platform to discuss issues that are important to us”.

While this focus on a female audience is welcome, the hour-long show is tucked into the schedules at the less-than-primetime slot of 9am on a Sunday morning.

Nevertheless, the show’s sponsor, Marks and Spencer, is high-end – indicating a strong desire on the part of advertisers to reach a female audience and a belief that Fitzpatrick’s audience will grow.

So, there’s an identifiable trend: audiences are tuning to listen to women broadcasters in greater numbers.

There’s other good news. Online magazines, such as the American website Jezebel, have created sizeable new audiences of women that traditional media is being forced to take seriously.

Recently, British broadcaster Lauren Laverne launched The Pool, a website promising “original content for busy women”.


Now the bad news.

Research over the last few years has consistently shown that women are still underrepresented in Irish radio, as presenters or guests on news and current affairs programmes.

Figures show that women account for somewhere between a quarter and a third of voices on air.

So what to do?

The problem isn’t unique to Ireland. In the UK, there has been increasing criticism of the prevalence of all-male panels in the media.

Oxford academic Debbie Cameron says the way to fight this inequality is to encourage a greater gender balance in debates.

She highlights the need to make a conscious effort to support other women.

It will continue to be a struggle but equality will come with mutual support and encouragement. Let us know what you think.