As women all around the world celebrate International Women’s Day today, it is a stark fact that we remain badly under-represented in the media.
In this country, male experts outnumber female ones by a rate of around four to one across major TV and radio shows and when women do appear, they are all too often portrayed as victims. There has been a ferocious debate about the lack of female authoritative voices – led by Broadcast Magazine’s excellent Expert Women campaign.
Broadcasters – in particular the BBC - have taken most of the flack. And while they do share responsibility for ensuring that more women appear on their programmes, women themselves also need to do a better job of collectively promoting themselves. All the interview bookers I have spoken to say that they would love more women to appear on their programmes, but genuinely struggle to find them.
I speak from personal experience. When I first joined Westminster as a political correspondent for a national newspaper, I was inundated by broadcasters desperate to get a young woman on their shows to talk politics. I overcame my fears about my self-perceived lack of expertise and regularly appeared on live TV. But when I had children, there were simply not enough hours in the day to justify TV appearances while juggling a busy life as a national newspaper journalist and mother of two young children. I lost count of the requests I turned down from broadcasters.
I now work for a successful PR company called iNHouse Communications which is founded and run by two women Jo Tanner and Katie Perrior. It was our realisation that women need help showcasing themselves that prompted us to launch HerSay today – a new website dedicated to promoting female experts in the media.
Rather than dishing out blame, HerSay aims to provide a practical solution by providing an invaluable resource centre for producers and journalists who want to use more female experts either in broadcast media or to provide quotes for print or online publications.
HerSay aims to help women raise their own profile within their chosen fields by providing support through regular training sessions and networking events. Support will range from media training and public speaking courses through to professional photography shoots and styling advice.
Women with all levels of expertise are being welcomed to join as HerSay – whether they are recognised leaders in their field or have personal stories to tell from their own life experiences. The website is completely free to use for experts and media. We are also taking data protection seriously and none of our experts’ details will be public.
Leading women from the worlds of business, politics, science, arts, education, health and the media have already signed up at www.hersay.co.uk and we have sourced hundreds more.
We hope the creation of HerSay will provide the necessary exposure required for broadcasters to take notice of women's fantastic skills and book them as commentators on their programmes.