In My Opinion: Ellen Arnison: What can we do to help women in the Media?

OH, my goodness me. The 16-strong nominations list for the allmediascotland Person of the Year 2012 has only got one woman on it. Of course, I must write about it. Shocking.

The list – comprising people in Scotland nominated for the remarkable thing they did in 2012 – is a positive testament to the ‘power of bloke’. It must be, surely?

And so I sharpened my feminist outrage and sat down to write.

And then…

Then I stopped and considered where I was sitting: at home. I don’t have a staff job at a newspaper, I’m not ‘climbing the greasy pole’ or making differences to teams of journalists. I freelance and work when it’s convenient for my family and I. What right have I to comment on the fact that there are so few women doing remarkable things in media when I walked away from the frontline because, as a working parent, it was simply too difficult to stay there?

But clearly I’m not alone in making a choice that took me away from potential positions of influence because of my family. Obviously I’m not saying that it’s impossible to influence and be remarkable as a working mother, a great many women do. It’s just that it’s hard, almost certainly far harder than it need be.

The fact is that the Media – like a great many industries – lacks an equal number of women ‘moving and shaking’ at the top.

It’s possible to ponder interminably about how this came about and whether, in fact, it’s anything to do with our industry, as the same situation prevails elsewhere. Perhaps women simply don’t want to have influential and important things to do…

But time is pressing and so a better use of my time would be to look at what can be done to improve matters.

Increasing flexibility

Obviously deadlines need to be met and some tasks are clearly not compatible with needing to be at the school gates for 3pm. However, there is room for manoeuvre and greater understanding. Tailoring one’s working day around family is not a sign of sub-standard work. And neither is the admission that one’s children might, actually, be just as important as one’s career.

Family first

Well, maybe not first, but certainly allowing anyone who has a family – or other important non-work thing – to stand up and be counted. How many of you desperately missed seeing your children grow up because you were at work?

Reducing ‘presenteeism’

We must tackle the notion that one must work visibly long hours in order to make a meaningful contribution. This is nonsense and serves no-one.

Understanding management

Not in the least bit a gender issue, but part of the problem. Good journalists find themselves promoted to positions where management skills are needed, except, good journalists aren’t necessarily good managers without training and support.

Softening the environment

Some Media offices – especially, in my experience, newspapers – can be remarkably coarse and sweary places. And while I’m not suggesting they emulate primary schools or libraries, a little respect and a few manners go a very long way.

Ban the bullies

Not all bullies are male and not all victims are female, but anything that reduces the number of cases where one person can pick on another will help everyone who perceives themselves to be weaker.

There are just as many young women as men who start out in Media careers. Let’s see what we can do to keep the balance all the way though. It really is about time.

Ellen Arnison worked for the Daily Star of Scotland and the Scottish Daily Mirror. She now works freelance, including writing, subbing, search engine optimisation, brand journalism, ghost blogging, blogging, copywriting and social media. She is the author of ‘Blogging for Happiness: A Guide to Improving Positive Mental Health (and Wealth) from Your Blog’.