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.

Desperately Seeking Women in Radio

Jenni Murray accepts her Gold Award

An interesting night last night at the Sonys…

Huge congratulations to legendary Jenni Murray on her Gold Award, long overdue – and to Annie Nightingale for her Special Award, recognising 40 amazing years in radio.  Two standout exceptions as The Guardian noted, on a very male night…

There’s no doubting the genius of Danny Baker and Frank Skinner, who both vied for best speech of the night, and there were worthy Sony winners in Simon Mayo, Zane Lowe, Nicky Campbell, Jeremy Vine and many more.  But each year I sit over my coffee, and wonder why more women aren’t up there collecting Gold.

Annie Nightingale with her Special Award

Recent figures from Skillset have shown that women are leaving the creative industries.  Independent TV, animation and interactive content have seen the biggest exodus, but radio is not exempt.  Women over 35 and those with children are most likely to leave, meaning that radio is losing many amazing women far too early.  For every Jenni, Annie, and Gold winner Victoria Derbyshire, there are a host of other women who took their talents – not to mention their contacts books, listener insight and years of training – elsewhere.

We need to find out what the barriers to success are.  A radio insider was bemoaning  recently how hard it is to get women on platforms at public events.  Is it a lack of confidence?  Dearth of role models?  Or are women just too busy?  Either way, we’re becoming invisible.

So enough of the sitting and wondering over my coffee as the Sony credits roll.  In response to popular demand, I’m setting up a new Women in Radio group.  Not one where tired women sit about grumbling about childcare and chauvinism – tempting though that might be – but a really dynamic one, which motivates and inspires women to go for that big job, take risks creatively, push to be given opportunities, and to take charge of their own careers and the industry.   Then maybe in 10 years time the esteemed Sony judges won’t have enough Gold Awards for us all.

If anyone’s interested in getting involved, please get in touch.

How to win Sony Gold

Ah the Gold Sony Radio Academy Award.  The Oscars of the Radio world.  They glitter.  They matter.  And anyone who says they don’t is two live guests short of a sports report…



This year I was invited to be on the Sony Radio Academy Awards Judging Committee, so I’ve had an inside view of the whole process.  I’d love to tell you everything that goes on.  But then I’d have to kill you.  So I’ll cut to the chase and say there is no quick fix.  Bribery won’t wash.  To win a Sony you really do have to have produced some awe-inspiring audio.

But there are a few things that might help turn this year’s Silver into Gold.  For starters, read the small print.  Yes I know it’s boring, and you’re busy getting that night’s programme together, and anyway your show is so brilliant it doesn’t need any explanation.  But you know what, if you’re asked to submit at least 4 clips, and you only submit 3, then your entry won’t – can’t – count.  However good it is.

Put some great audio at the top.  Most judges will be extremely conscientious and listen to everything in full.  But there might just be a rogue one who’s in a hurry, and if they’re in your category, you need to grab them within the first five minutes, or their ears might be caught by another, flirtier entry.  Don’t judge the judges.  Just give them what they want.  Quickly.

And there is one other thing.  It’s blindingly obvious, but you’d be surprised how many entries ignore it.  And us an industry of storytellers too…   It’s this.  Whisper it.  A narrative.  If your presenter has recently come back from public humiliation/serious injury/being sacked by another network – say so.   If your radio station has faced closure/been run on sellotape and string – mention it.  One year, in the category I was judging, one entry seemed to assume that everyone knew the background to their story.  So they barely alluded to it.  Their entry was much weaker than it should have been, and I had to physically stop myself from phoning to berate them.

All the hardships we as programme-makers overcome make our shows, documentaries, and radio stations, stories in their own right.  And if the judges can see what production teams or presenters have taken on and beaten to get where they are now, that’s what – along with the amazing audio and RAJARS – might just get you that Sony Gold.