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Women in radio face sexism and career barriers in the workplace, new study concludes

By | Published on Wednesday 10 March 2021


In a new study looking at gender diversity in the UK radio industry, 84% of respondents say that they feel it is harder for women to progress their career in the sector. 71% add that their appearance has had an effect on their job opportunities, 61% have experienced sexist comments about their appearance at work, and 59% say that they feel having children has had or would have a negative impact on their career.

The study has been undertaken by Radio Silence, which is seeking to elevate the voices of under-representing groups in the radio industry, and Women In CTRL, the organisation representing women working in the music business. They spoke to over 100 women who work in presenting or production roles at radio stations operated by the BBC, Global, Bauer and News UK, as well as a number of smaller local and community stations.

The two groups note that a report from media regulator OfCom last year found that 43% of employees at radio companies were female. However, they add, that top level stat didn’t account for the kinds of roles occupied by women, and also didn’t include data from the smaller local and community stations. Through their study, Radio Silence and Women In CTRL wanted to “holistically understand the barriers that exist for these women from entry-level roles to positions of power”.

Among other stats to come out of the study are that 42% of respondents have experienced sexist comments in relation to their career progression, 27% feel pressure to flirt to get ahead, and 55% say they feel less valued than their male counterparts in the workplace. When asked if there was enough representation of women in the radio sector, the majority of respondents say “no”, although the figure is higher for talk and sport radio compared to music radio.

Radio Silence and Women In CTRL have also published some verbatim quotes from the women they surveyed. One told the study: “I was quite shocked how much sexism – and racism – still exists in the radio industry. Over my career I have witnessed some appalling behaviour towards myself and others from men in positions of power, varying from bullying to unchallenged decision-making based on prejudices”.

“More than one male manager has purposefully tried to stunt my career in the last ten years”, the respondent continued. “I’ve worked with several characters who were known for ‘not liking other people’s ideas’ or ‘not getting on with women’. It’s very difficult to speak out about culture as sexism and racism can be so insidious, companies haven’t come up with a way to cope with that yet”.

Meanwhile another respondent stated: “For women, working in radio can feel like you’ve sneaked into an all boys club. It doesn’t matter what station I’ve been in, from commercial breakfast shows to underground MC sets, white middle class men are often the majority in the studio. I’m undermined a lot in a studio by male producers. On one occasion, someone mansplained to me how to use Instagram Stories – I’m not joking! I love radio but the lack of diverse representation is seriously affecting the quality of work that is being created and producers’ personal creative confidence”.

Radio Silence and Women In CTRL are calling on radio companies to sign up to a pledge to change their industry for the better, with a commitment to: diversity training, the publication of gender pay gap stats across the board, clearer processes for reporting harassment, clearer policies on maternity leave, and “holistically protecting the women in your workplace”.

You can check the results of the study here.