WHAT WE DO
Women on Air is a community of like-minded women and men who want to hear and see more women on the airwaves. We're a completely voluntary networking group that runs seminars, events and informal training workshops to help give women the skills and confidence to go on radio and television. All women involved – from the speakers to committee members – volunteer their time to ensure a greater diversity of voices on the airwaves. The community was founded in 2010 by journalist and entrepreneur Margaret E. Ward.
Why was it started?
Many women, no matter how expert they may be in their field, seem hesitant to state their views in public forums such as radio, television or in live debates. They tend to shy away from opinion journalism. Producers and researchers also report that they have great difficulty getting women on the airwaves. Women on Air's events and conference provide female area experts with media contacts, practical broadcasting tips, inside information and personal contacts. Through the seminars and meetings women come to understand that their opinions are valid – and wanted – by radio researchers and producers. They also form networks of women who encourage and support them to get on radio or TV.
Who are the members?
Anyone who supports the aims of women on air – to get more female voices on the airwaves – can join. We welcome women and men and there is currently no fee for membership. Simply email email@example.com and we'll add you to the members list. You'll be joining almost 1,000 people from all walks of life.
Our membership includes:
- Experts in their field – women who have an expertise (from surgeons and scientists to CEOs, journalists, IT professionals, scientists, artists and the heads of charitable organisations) and want to go on radio and TV to share it.
- Regular contributors to radio and TV – women who are already on the airwaves who want to improve, get tips or share their expertise with the community. Some also want to make the move from contributor to presenter.
- Programme-makers themselves – female and male presenters, producers, researchers, broadcast assistants, technicians, media executives and journalists (representing all types of media) who want more women on air.
- Journalists – women and men who work in all types of journalism (print, online, radio, TV, documentary-makers, videographers, etc) support us as members and contributors.
- Supporters – many people with no interest in going on air themselves support our aims and do what they can to support others by becoming members or encouraging friends, colleagues, experts and programme-makers to join.
- Sponsors – many companies, organisations, government bodies and individuals offer to help financially support the work of Women on Air through donations to support our conference, individual events or ongoing development and administration.
Cost of attending
€8 per seminar in 2014 (Partially covers cost of venue). This is our only source of ongoing funding.
What else do we do?
As a solutions-based organisation, we're always looking at the latest research and what methods and initiatives work abroad. So far we've focused on:
- Research – we encourage research into the possible barriers to women on radio and TV and seeking to break them down. We liaise with academic community, the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland and politicians to ensure more research is done in this area.
- Creating practical tools – we provide a free directory of female contributors for producers and researchers on this website called "The List" so they can more easily find women who are willing to share their expert views and opinions on air and in print.
- Lobbying – we work hard at persuading media executives, industry bodies, producers and researchers that more women are possible on air.
- Identifying resources – we suggest organisations that can offer women further media training if needed.
- Building a supportive community – we assist and encourage expert women who want to get on the airwaves through our events, Twitter, Facebook, email, phone calls and text messages.
Women on Air background
In May 2010, Margaret read an article by then Sunday Tribune journalist Una Mullally about the lack of women on Irish radio in an article called “Radio Gaga”:
Mullally found that 80% to 90% of radio presenters were men. Women, when they did appear on radio schedules, tended to broadcast outside of the prime time hours of 7am to 7pm. In 2014, things are about the same, if not worse.
When Margaret asked media executives about these statistics she was told that when it came to presenters “Listeners prefer men” and as for contributors they said “There are no women available to talk about economics/ business/ politics/ sport/ science”. No matter how hard she tried she could not find any evidence for either assertion. As a journalist, she wanted the hard facts and started digging for research that backed it up. (None exists).
When it came to contributors, many stations often had all-male panels or one woman on a panel, according to “snapshot” research conducted by Lucy Keaveney, retired Deputy Principal and Equality Studies Student at UCD and founder of the Countess Markievicz summer school. Keaveney listened to and noted the male/ female contributors to radio over a two week period in Sept, 2010. Male guests held sway with an 80% to 90% representation during the prime main listening hours.
Twitterati to the rescue
As Margaret wrote about all these little findings on Twitter (@MargaretEWard) in July 2010, she was challenged by Helen McCormack (@HelenMcCormack), producer of Tom McGurk’s radio show on 4FM, to come up with a list of women who could talk on various subjects. So, “The List” of female area experts was later born on womenonair.ie. So far, we have more than 1000 entries detailing women who are interested in contributing or presenting on radio or TV.
Another Twitterer, Helen O’Rahilly (@TellyDubby), former executive at RTE TV, and Helen Shaw, a former RTE radio executive, offered to come to speak to a group of women. Our first event was held in Oct 2010 at the National Library.
For more information on Women on Air please email firstname.lastname@example.org