The Start of Sound Women

The morning after the last Sony Radio Academy Awards I rashly declared the need for a ‘women in radio’ group.  The response was amazing, with women from all over the UK and Ireland wanting to join on the spot and swop stories…  It’s taken a while to get here, but yesterday a group women working in audio – BBC, commercial and online – went into the first ‘Women in Radio’ meeting at BBC Broadcasting House, and emerged two hours later as ‘Sound Women’.

Sound Women L-R: Sue Ahern (Creative People), Rebecca Maxted (Wise Buddah), Heather Davies (Young Women in Media), Sue Carter (JackFM), Lorna Clarke (BBC Radio 2), Natasha Maw (BBC Academy), Kate O'Connor (Skillset), Francesca Panetta (The Guardian), Fi Glover, Karen Stacey (Bauer), Miranda Sawyer, Maria Williams, and Nicky Birch (taking the photo!)

Skillset figures show that more women currently come into radio than men, and they are better qualified (4 in 5 women have degrees compared to 3 in 5 men).   But they’ll be paid  on average £5,579 less than their male colleagues every year of their working lives.  And by the time they’re 35, many will have abandoned the industry.

So what can Sound Women do?  Well we’re starting by creating a network of 300 inspirational women, who’ll appear on panels at the Radio Festival, put themselves forward as Sony or Arqiva Awards judges, and start being the visible face of women in audio.  If you’d like to nominate someone – or yourself – to be on this list contact me.  We’re collecting names until July 8th, and these women will be the first Sound Women members.

We’re also going to make it easier for other women to see who’s out there using social media.  We’ll set up mentoring schemes, run training sessions, hold events, and find family friendly ways to network across the whole industry.  Ultimately we’d like a glitzy awards ceremony, celebrating the work of female programme-makers and presenters, and recognising the unsung heroines who hold this industry together.

Sound Women will take a while to fully hit its stride, but has the potential to make the whole industry a fairer, more representative, more exciting place for everyone to work.  About time too.  I’ll keep you posted.

14 thoughts on “The Start of Sound Women

  1. Nice one ladies! Its about time ! We are a women and young peoples NGO based in Birmingham and ( started training young women ( 18 to 25) from disadvantaged backgrounds in Radio production and broadcasting two years ago with funding from MediaBox, now we are a successful online station ( which has been developed after the success of that project. As a radio trainer I literally feel social empowerment evolving in them as their skills in radio get better and better, since thn we have trained over 300 young women in UK, Yemen and Oman in Radio production and broadcasting and have raised funds to start first Pan European Media Bursary for girls in partnership with NRK, Norway and EU Lifelong learning programme…and guess what? BBC didn’t even reply to us when we approached for a partnership! The Norwegians on the contrary couldn’t wait to start the support! So the change will only come when our leading public broadcaster and media houses get off from thier high horses and starts interacting with NGO’s and individuals who are already working on the ground to make tremendous improvement in the inequality which is rife in British Media! Anyone wishing to know more about our programme please email and Maria, although I’m not a woman, I’m very much a fighter for womens rights in media, therefore will be good to gear from you , unless your is a women only initiative, best wishes, and well done for Sound Women! Prashant singh, Director fo Media and Education, Ulfah Arts Ltd, Birmingham

  2. Would love to keep up-to-date with this group. Please see the following link to an article I wrote about this very subject last year, whilst working for South Leeds Community Radio:

    I have worked for the BBC and community radio in the regions, previously as a journalist and now mainly training and supporting others. We’re hoping to run another women-only training course at SLCR this autumn.

    Thanks for getting this started.

    Sally Cooper

  3. Hello-I’ve just seen this via the Community Media Association list.
    Women have been activating in radio for a long time-and I am pleased to see this new group. I first discovered the benefit of joining together with other women in radio in the late 1970’s when I joined ‘Women’s Airwaves’ in London . This group gave me my first experience of feminism and was hugely important to me as a new entrant in radio when I needed support, training, mentors…. In 1992, with my radio sister Trish Caverly and 200 volunteers in Bristol, I set up Fem FM, a week long women’s radio station that proved that women could do everything in radio! This inspired other short term stations e.g.Brazen Radio in London, Radio Venus in Bradford. I edited a book called Women and Radio, Airing Differences (published by Routledge in 2000) to bring together research in this area- it was warmly endorsed by Dame Jenni Murray! Also, don’t forget the very active Women’s Radio Group that trains, broadcasts and supports women in London and beyond!
    I’d love to be part of your network and if I can help bring together some of the experience of women’s radio activism, training, support from the past…
    Caroline Mitchell Senior lecturer in Radio, University of Sunderland and independent community media researcher and trainer.

    • Many thanks for this Caroline and Eleanor. Yes we are keen to work with all like-minded groups, and to build on the positive work in this area that’s gone on for many years… We already have great relationships with Women in Film & TV, and Young Women in Media – we’ll be reaching out to all others over the next few weeks and months, but if you have good contacts in the area please do feel free to pass our details on too!

  4. Thank you, Caroline and Eleanor, for your kind mentions. At Women’s Radio Group we noted with interest the announcement about Sound Women and look forward to finding out more. There’s a great need for all kinds of organisations promoting the cause of women in the radio industry, from first voxpops and community reporting to boardroom and award judge level.
    Women’s Radio Group was registered as a charity in 1989 and has been working as a training and networking organisation ever since. We’ve run RSLs (short-term broadcasts, on Restricted Service Licences), which started with the legendary Celebration Radio in 1994 – and more recently regular internet broadcasts by women. We have worked in partnership with community and arts organisations on a range of training and production projects including with the Panjabi Centre in Southall, where Desi Radio is based, with Riverside Studios in Hammersmith, with Slough Young People’s Centre and with Camden Community Radio.
    Our courses and activities tend to focus on community radio and entry level. We are very proud of the numerous talented women who have trained or practised their skills with us and who are now established in the industry – as well as those who through radio have gained increased confidence in their daily lives, having told their own stories and built up their communication skills.
    Sound Women brings another dimension to the mix and for that it is very welcome. We look forward to working with you and will encourage our members to put themselves forward to be among the first 300.
    Chrissie Kravchenko, Director/Coordinator, Women’s Radio Group
    Estelle Lovatt, Chair, Women’s Radio Group

  5. Pingback: Sound Women – new group for women in radio « Talking Media

  6. Sounds great with the sound women in industry roots and wide reach. It would be marvellous to link with Women in Radio as well. I was very pleased to hear of you – via London Link Radio and WRG . I am joining as one of your first 300 I hope! I have been making programmes and broadcasting since early 90’s when with Women in Music we put Brazen Radio RSL together with some great women in radio (& links with Fem FM – yes! Caroline!) and alongside Women in Music ( I first trained at CSV Media and then more advanced a couple of years ago with WRG and a Grundvig EEC programme and now I train people as well). With WRG it has been a great step to grow from creating content for many years for my own broadcasts to training other women – especially in using music on radio/presenting music. It is a very supportive group enabling members to expand what we do including industry links and linking radio with unusual projects and I now welcome Sound Women. I currently broadcast on Resonance FM (African Essence see our site + Free topic feature slots and standalone in depth interviews) and with women’s radio group where I have been producing our Ealing Community strand . I have also recently produced shows for Refugee Week Radio and Radio 1812 as well – often simulcast across on Resonance FM and London Link Radio. I also do mixes for a number of online shows from time to time. I enjoy the medium of radio and being able to offer vital airwaves and a chance to be heard to people who would otherwise be unheard and to open different windows for more well known people too. My main area is music from all over the world and music made by women. I am once again chair of Women in Music where we are exploring new media ways forward and am on the board of London Link Radio. I am curator for City Showcase Roots & Flutes and media manager for WOM@ TT as well and drawing these together within my company Outerglobe. I think a group like Sound Women with strong roots in the industry with the mission you have is very welcome and I look forward to being a strong part of it! i like your approach to social media also – crucial for our times! And I am loving this forum board with all the great women coming forward! Count me in!!!!

  7. I’d love to be part of Sound Women. My indie production company Angel Media Productions CIC is a social enterprise dedicated to discovering and developing diverse talent in media and music. It offers co-mentoring, training, networking and e-internships, and it’s on the BBC’s preferred list of suppliers for independent radio production. Good luck with this new group, and please count me in! Jane Whyatt

  8. It sounds great! I work as a freelancer Journalist and radio producer for the german broadcaster – Deutsche Welle Radio (DW)- in Bonn and I’d love to be a part of Sound Women! I’ve given journalism trainings and produce educational radio soap operas for DW. Count me in!

  9. Hello Maria
    Your new initiative sounds great and I am interested in learning more. I consider myself a radio beginner having completed radio production training in 2009 with Women’s Radio Group. I can say, without reservation, that this training has changed my life and I’d like to see the same thing happen for other women. Please keep me posted.
    Yula Burin

    • Thanks everyone for all your energy and enthusiasm! It’s been so heartening to sit here and watch the emails and comments roll in – and to see how many of you are as determined as I am to change the status quo…. I’m working hard right now to get Sound Women properly up and running, so will keep everyone’s details safe, and be in touch just as soon as I have news to report. Bear with me. We are all determined to do this properly. And all your brilliant offers of help will be taken up very soon I promise!

  10. If only there’d been something similar in 1971 when I joined the BBC as a Station Assistant in local radio. I was one of two ‘token’ women on the broadcasting side; there were none as producer/reporters in the newsroom. My joy at being appointed was quashed by a male colleague who told me I’d got the job because of the length of my skirt! (minis round one)
    Things did improve, but I’ve always found that unless you’re prepared to spend hours in the pub you miss out on the station plans & politics.

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