In My Opinion: Mairi Damer: Mind the gap – where’s the burdz?

I WAS, for a whole decade, one of a three per cent media minority, and proud of it.

Because that teeny, tiny little figure is the percentage of female sports journalists working in the mainstream media in the UK. And I was one of their number during my years as producer of BBC Radio Scotland’s Sports Weekly and Sportsound programmes.

On the one hand, it feels kinda special to have been part of such a small but significant sisterhood, but it’s not exactly a level playing field, is it?

It seems staggering that in the 44 years since Julie Welch became the first woman to write a football match report for a Fleet Street newspaper, there is still only a measly three per cent of girls getting a byline on the back pages.

Of course, one single solitary stat doesn’t paint the whole picture of gender balance when it comes to the press, the airwaves and online. But that three per cent is only one of a long, long list of facts and figures which demonstrates, loud and clear, that, when it comes to equal footing in the media, feminism has failed.

But before you get in a fankle, fellow feminists, please understand that I use the ‘F’ word with tongue planted firmly in cheek.

There’s a helluva lot more barriers to equal gender balance across the whole media landscape than any single women’s movement could ever hope to tackle. But the figures make downright depressing reading, and make me wonder why – in the name of the ‘wee wumman’ – we are still so utterly off the front pages?

It’s not all bad news, of course. Lucy Adams is chief reporter at The Herald, Moira Gordon writes some cracking sports copy for Scotland on Sunday, and Claire Kelly is pretty well in charge of all she surveys on BBC Radio Scotland’s award-winning Sportsound programme.

But when only 36 per cent of all TV staffers in the UK are women, when there are no female editors at all on the Scottish nationals, and, as far as I could find, only five females in charge of all things editorial on local papers north of the border, then, Boy! We gals sure have got a long way to go.

And if there’s a long way to go to plug the gender gap on the staffing side of the media, there’s an even greater distance when it comes to getting women’s voices heard, or read. The best available estimate indicates that only 24 per cent of contributors across all media are women. Man, oh man, that is simply not enough.

These are momentous times for women and men in Scotland, so surely it’s not too much to ask that we women have our fair share of thought, opinion and expertise?

It really matters to me, as a media savvy sole-trader, trying to carve out a career in communications, that the modern media, in all its guises, represents me right. As a mother, wife, daughter, sister, niece, aunt, friend, and professional working woman, I want all of my interests covered, and I want them covered creatively.

I want to read news, features, sport and opinion from a perspective that’s close to mine. I want to watch TV and listen to radio which has been made by women as well as men, where editorial content is not just driven by the fellas, many of whom daily do down ‘female-friendly’ journalism. I want interpretation of politics and current affairs that represents and reflects my life. I want online content that’s fresh, female and energetic. I want way more than lipstick and lifestyle.

So come on gals and guys, get to it.

Sources: Women in Journalism Study 2011 /Creative Skillset Employment Census of the Creative Media Industries 2012 / Global Media Monitoring Project 2010.

Mairi Damer is director of WORD UP Communications. She is also a former BBC Scotland radio producer.