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Saturday 17 March 2018

Childcare and focus on appearance challenge women in the media, seminar told

Nicola Anderson

Nicola Anderson

Childcare and the focus on appearance are the two main challenges blocking women from our radios and television screens.

A major seminar on Women On Air has heard that women who put themselves out there in the media are subject to internet abuse.

Una Mullally from the Irish Times revealed she had even been threatened with rape.

Minister for Communications Pat Rabbitte told the seminar at Dublin Castle that if women are absent in the decision-making process at the highest level in Irish media, the agenda and analysis will be flawed.

"If women are consistently absent at the critical point of the decision-making process at the highest level in Irish media, the coverage, the schedules, the programmes, the agenda and the analysis will be flawed," he said.

" Irish media will largely lack the perspective of 50 per cent of the population – women,  whose perspective draws on women’s life experience, priorities and values,  and these clearly are different to men’s."

Later this year the Government will appoint new members to both the Board of RTE and the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland, said the Minister.

Appointments to these boards are now shared with the Joint Oireachtas Committee – "an innovation the merits of which I am not entirely persuaded," he added.

He said the Government was committed to enhancing gender equality on State Boards, saying: "Personally, I feel these are two where the policy is of particular significance and ones where the existing, pretty even, balance between women and men needs to be maintained."

The Minister urged private media organisations to "examine their conscience" on this point also.

He quoted Sheryl Sandberg by telling women to "keep your hands up and ask that question....make sure that your voice is heard."

Founder of Women on Air, journalist Margaret E Ward told that Ireland was at the forefront in addressing the issue of women on air, saying the BBC, and women in Africa have contacted them asking them about their work.

Women on Air now have over 1,000 members, with requests to set up chapters in Cork, Mayo, Belfast, and London.

TV3's Ursula Halligan told the seminar she had watched female colleagues 'disappear' because of the challenges facing women in the media, highlighting childcare and the focus on appearance as the two main barriers.

Irish Independent

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