When it comes to women in the media, we are at a turning point.
Hollywood figures have been putting their privileged position on the world stage to good use, and bringing issues that negatively impact women in the workplace – from sexual harassment, to the gender pay gap – to light, and making headlines around the world in the process.
All-black outfits and badges have been worn, speeches have been made and – at last week’s BRIT Awards in London – white roses have been carried in support of the Time’s Up movement, which calls time on sexual assault, harassment and inequality in the culture sector. On social media, the widely reported #MeToo hashtag has grown out of the revelations of Harvey Weinstein’s systemic harassment within the industry. It has since evolved, and women from every sector have come forward with their own stories of workplace discrimination, and worse.
So, what does this mean for PR?
We are at a point where female voices matter in the media, particularly for broadcast channels. BBC news planning editor Sarah Fountain recently spoke at a breakfast briefing organised by Roxhill, our media database provider, about why having more women on TV is important when it comes to changing the perceptions of business.
This is significant for two reasons.
One: at present, only one in six people in senior leadership positions within corporations is female. For young girls, seeing an even proportion of women on television promotes the idea that they, too, can be business leaders – changing ambitions first, while industry reality catches up.
Two: businesses that put forward women for media opportunities are automatically seen as more inclusive, diverse and forward-thinking. And, if you’re going up against five men, a female spokesperson will statistically have a better chance of being put on the box. Especially at the BBC which, according to Fountain, has a 50/50 target split between the sexes.
This doesn’t mean businesses must necessarily neglect their male spokespeople – particularly as, judging by our earlier statistic, C-suite employees are more likely to be men. However, we’re in a moment of great social and cultural upheaval – and jumping on the bandwagon right now might just be the best thing you can do for your business, your reputation, and your press coverage.