Crack open the champagne and cut the cake – because 2022 marks the 30th birthday of Women in Journalism.
We were founded by the indomitable Eve Pollard – then editor of the Sunday Express – in a year when the news agenda was dominated by economic woes, Prince Andrew’s secret shenanigans and a lot of argument about Europe.
And yet it was a very different time too…
Eve still vividly remembers that first event she organised to bring women journalists together under the headline ‘Are women getting their fair share?’
”Woman after woman got up and opened up about their lives,’ says Eve. ‘Explaining they weren’t getting their fair share. Unburdening themselves in public for the first time they wanted to tell the truth. However grand their title, they wanted to admit that just because they were women they had so little power.
‘As one speaker stopped, another took her place, they wanted to testify about low salaries, chairmen with tin ears, being locked out of the culture of Fleet Street and working conditions. Tears were blinked back. Tissues were out. There were murmurs of agreement and encouragement, short bursts of applause as no one wanted to miss a word.’
It was time for change.
And Women in Journalism was born!
There are now women editors at The Sun, The Financial Times, The Guardian, The Sunday Times, The Sunday Mirror and myself at the Mirror. Deborah Turness has just been appointed as CEO of news and current affairs at the BBC, joining a raft of women in the most senior positions in British broadcast journalism. On screen there has been huge focus on ensuring gender balance.
With women in more leadership positions women viewers and readers have stories written and edited by people like them. Our concerns, passions and furies have found their way into the public arena because women journalists have taken them there. News has finally been able to escape from the prism of the all-male gaze.
Which leads some people to ask if, 30 years on, there is still a role for us?
But I know the need for Women in Journalism has never been greater.
While progress has been made, we cannot allow it to slide. Coming out of a pandemic, we know women are more likely to lose out, be on insecure work contracts and find it more challenging to get to the top.
We are still far from gender balance at all levels of the sector. A Press Gazette analysis showed that of the women national editors we do have – it is still only one third of the total number of editors. And a recent survey by Women in Journalism showed 73 per cent of respondents felt career progression was harder for women.
More than a third of women journalists who took part in a Government survey about abuse and harassment said they feel unsafe doing their jobs in the UK.
Social media bullying and trolling is heavily targeted at women.
Journalists who are black or from minority ethnic groups have had an even harder, longer fight for representation in our industry. They are also frequently subjected to the online attacks which seek to silence them.
These are now, as there always have been, many people who want women and their stories to be silenced.
Globally the problem is even worse. A survey by UNESCO and the International Center for Journalists reported that 73per cent of women journalists had experienced online violence in the course of their work.
As the current chair of Women in Journalism I am indebted to the work of my predecessors all the way from Eve Pollard to more recently Eleanor Mills, Jane Martinson and Sue Matthias.
Women in Journalism helps by running a busy events calendar with a range of practical skills-based workshops, panel discussions and inspirational speakers. Last year we launched a Woman of the Year award at the British Journalism Awards and at the Regional Journalism Awards. We also continue to also mark innovation within Journalism with our annual Georgina Henry Award.
And then there is our mentoring scheme which has guided hundreds of women through their careers and done so much to encourage women to push forward in their careers.
We’ve done so much 30 years on from our founding, but there is still much more to do. Women in Journalism want to continue to support and inspire, to campaign and promote the work of women and all those who are underrepresented in the media so together we can build an industry which fairly reflects our readers, our viewers and our society.
And we would love you to be part of this. So join if you’d like to discover more about our events, mentoring and campaigns do get in touch. Or join us simply to show solidarity for all those still seeking ‘their fair share’.
I hope you will join us!
Women in Journalism Chair