Climbing the Glass Ladder in the Broadcast Industry

By Sadie Groom,
Managing Director, Bubble Communications
Founder of Rise – a Group for Women in Broadcast

First thing to say is men do not turn away from reading this piece – if you have a daughter, sister, niece you might want to know this…In 1996 I joined the broadcast industry – at this point bright-eyed and slightly bleary tailed after a hectic first NAB we all joked about how few women there were in our sector and how we didn’t have to queue to use the bathrooms! So, 21 years later what has changed? Are there still fewer women than men in the industry from a user and business perspective? Are all the CEO’s still men? What other levels of diversity are there in our sector? These are questions that I have been looking at for three years now and have finally started to do something about it and in particular the issue of female diversity.

I should stress why I think that this is important. Firstly, all those very bright people at McKinsey and the World Economic Forum have done the statistics and proven that boards with a diverse range of people perform significantly better. Secondly, as the broadcast sector moves closer into an IT centric world we want the sector to be attractive to younger females and they need role models to do this. Thirdly women are 50% of the population and therefore are consuming 50% of what is broadcast (in whatever way we broadcast today) and therefore they are buyers on all levels.

So, what happened next? I realised that to approach the industry associations and tell the story I needed some statistics – just to note that the survey was focussed on women in non-craft roles in the broadcast sector – operations, sales, marketing, engineering, and business. The survey that I ran, which had just over 100 respondents (male and female), looked at the number of women in the sector and if they wanted to join a group to support them and if so what would the group look like. The statistics first:

70% of respondents said that their company’s working practices could be improved for women – main issues include career path progression, childcare provisions and flexible working
Have you been subjected to comments or actions in your workplace that you would see as non-supportive of you being female? Over half of the respondents said yes to this question, with some tales of not being taken seriously in meetings, to one male respondent saying he witnesses them being ‘silently elbowed-out’
Number of females in the business. 69% of respondents said that there were 25% or less females in their business
Females in senior management team. 15% of respondents had half or more females in their senior management team. 25% of respondents have between 25-50% of females in their management team. 60% of respondents had a minority and in most cases no women on their senior management team
From 1700 industry manufacturers and service companies exhibiting at NAB less than 2% have a female CEO!
All respondents (apart from one) wanted to have a pro-active group that supports women in broadcast and provides networking, talks and mentoring

So, have things changed – yes, a bit but not enough. I ask myself repeatedly, especially looking around the halls of IBC, how do we attract more women into the industry and get the ones in it to get into more senior positions? It is absolutely correct to say that we need to start it at a school and university level but we need to make it attractive for women to join. As part of our survey we looked at 250 industry manufacturers websites and only 25% of them had women using equipment on them and the majority used terminology such as cameraman. The statistic on the number of women as CEO is just shocking and will not encourage women in any way.

In my mind to accelerate this change we need to work with the industry associations, exhibitions and manufacturers to raise the issue and get talking about it. Following on from the survey results we have formed a new group called Rise which is currently being put together and will host its first event in London before the end of the year with global events to follow.

What next? The Rise group is looking for women and men to join and be part of the change, I will be at NAB New York so if you would like to get involved or meet up please let me know on [email protected] and we can start making a difference.

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