I recently worked on a six-part web series entirely produced by students. It was written by three women, directed by the same three women, produced by a further three women and shot entirely by a woman. In my experience university is awash with confident, capable, extraordinary young women bursting with enthusiasm: for storytelling; for questioning; and for investigating. All looking to hone their voice and their medium, experimenting with the incredible range of student media opportunities on offer.
In Oxford there’s certainly no shortage of options. Of the conventional sort we have three prominent student newspapers; we also have a radio station, Oxide Radio, which boasts over 60 shows. Additionally, there’s a constantly busy filmmaking society which supports an incredible variety of projects. I’m lucky enough to feel that any of these avenues would be open to me and that I have the same tools to succeed as any of my male friends, confident that the work I produced would be judged on its merits exactly as theirs would be.
However, for better or for worse I will not be consigned to the role of student journalist for eternity and looking forward into the world of work, I don’t have the same confidence in how I might be received.
What the recent revelations of considerable gender pay gaps at all the major British Broadcasters say to me, as a young woman aspiring to enter this world, is that women in these industries are not valued in the same way that men are. It cannot be the case that before Carrie Gracie felt compelled to resign from her job, no-one had noticed that senior positions were so severely male dominated; to me it seems that no one felt it was important enough to shout about.
At a student level, learning from and collaborating with your peers is one of the greatest joys. My entire foray into student journalism started because an older girlfriend of mine was running broadcasting for a student paper and encouraged me to get involved. Predictably, I loved the outlet from my normal student routine, learnt as much as I could from her and went on to take over her job. Happily, the extent to which this sense of kindship and mentoring continues well into the working world was highlighted by the incredible female support for the women who spoke out about their pay. By strengthening this network, we can reinforce our ability to combat the casual sexism and misogyny that continues to go unreported across the media and business world.
It would be criminal if, in our privileged position as undergraduates at Oxford, we didn’t at least try and contribute to this vital resource.
Alongside other talented young students, I have helped form the Oxford University Media Society. Our ambition is to serve as a national forum for media engagement, with weekly lectures and seminars. We hope these will provide a platform that can amplify the experiences of incredible women and their achievements in media, to highlight the unequivocal value their contributions add to the contemporary media scene. In doing so we hope too, to provide an environment in which industry-wide issues can be debated and discussed; a good first step in tackling gender stigmas and discrimination of all kinds in organisations.
Our first term card includes Mary Hockaday, Controller of the BBC World Service and Farrah Storr, editor of Cosmopolitan. Despite approaching equal numbers of men and women we have not achieved a gender balance, therefore, our first priority for the following term is to improve this. Only by doing so will we ensure we are representing the diverse media world into which we will be sending our student members.
Of course, more needs to be done at an industry level to change policy, but as there is a gap in the market for a media society, who better to lead the way than intelligent and ambitious students, who want to do the much-needed task of getting media experts, academics, and the future of our industry in the same room once in a while to talk.
I am certain one day we won’t have to talk about ‘women in media’ and ‘women in journalism’. Within my working life I hope to be referred to as a journalist, broadcaster or blogger without qualification or excuse.
Getting to that point requires that we all learn from those who have gone before and that is exactly what the platform of media society can help us achieve.
Second-year PPE student, University College (Oxford)
Treasurer, Oxford University Media Society