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Okay, I am going to say it and a lot of people are not going to like it: “2013 has been the year of the misogynists in Australia.”

Before you jump to tell me that former Prime Minister Julia Guillard was not treated differently to any other politician, I am not declaring this year a loss for women just because of her now famous speech – it is more because it was this year, more than any, where a prevailing danger has emerged that we could slip back decades on gender issues in our sector if we are not vigilant.

Later this year, the Community Media Training Organisation will launch a Young Women in Leadership mentoring program for the sector. The program is open to young women in the sector who are interested in taking up leadership positions either at their station or in the wider sector. Whether it be standing for election to the national committee of a sector organisation, a grants committee of the CBF or getting elected to a committee or board at your station, the CMTO’s Young Women in Leadership project will offer opportunities to increase women’s influence in the community broadcasting sector.  The project will also include opportunities for women to increase their technical knowledge especially in leading the production of new media content – an area which is dominated by men even in our sector. Participants will get to network with other women, manage small projects and ask for assistance to develop some of the skills and knowledge you need to get ahead in the community broadcasting sector.

In particular, the CMTO is looking for applications from Indigenous young women, as well young women from refugee and small, emerging communities who are under-represented across the sector. We are excited to announce that the wonderful Kath Letch will head our mentoring team. Kath brings a wealth of experience with her having worked as a station manager, the General Manager of the CBAA and as the President of the CBAA in her younger years.

If you take a look at statistics on the gender balance in the community broadcasting sector in Australia on the surface of things we don’t look too bad.

In management, for example, women make up about 44% of the membership of boards and committees at stations. Sector organisations management committees are doing okay too with about 40% of committees being made up of women. 

So why would I declare this the year of the misogynist and say we must be vigilant about women’s position in the community broadcasting sector?

It is because this year more than ever we have seen an increase in content across the media which is denigrating towards women. Most notorious was radio presenter Allan Jones’ comments claiming that “women are destroying the joint”.  While it is what we have come to expect of Jones and other radio shock jocks, the denigration extended to online media where men continued the attack on Julia Guillard and anyone who dared to speak in her defence.

There is no doubt that the online environment has become a fertile ground for expressions of discrimination and abuse- and here is why we need to be vigilant. So often in CMTO classes, students bring up the existence of discriminatory content elsewhere as a justification of their right to express their own views on air or online. The simple fact is that having a few copies of the Community Radio Codes of Practice around the station is no match for the widespread influence of the mainstream media and the Internet on our communities, and more importantly, on our own staff and volunteers.

While the statistics on women involved in management positions in the community broadcasting sector are much better than the wider media, there are two crucial areas of our sector where women fall behind considerably- and they just happen to be two areas of massive influence- on air personnel and people working in technology and development. Only 39% of the people on air in community broadcasting are women, while a very low 21% of people involved in technology and development are women.

The on-air figure is particularly alarming because it is our public face. Anyone running a community radio station will tell you it is always harder to find women to present programs than men. Generally speaking, if a station is not always promoting itself to women, the percentage of women involved in the station will decrease. The same cannot be said for men.

In the area of technology and development, the absence of women is astonishing and pretty much on a par with the statistics in the wider community. If you really thought my claim about misogyny was over the top, you may be surprised to know that women who have started organisations to improve the gender balance in this field are often the victims of online bullying and trolling by men.

The field of digital and online media is perhaps our biggest challenge in the community broadcasting sector. It is here that conversations often deliberately exclude those who are less experienced and too often that means women. Increasingly, making content for radio or television involves a set of skills which is widening to understanding digital and online technologies. The truth is, that if we want women to continue to be involved in content production in our sector in the future then we have to move to include them now.

Expressions of Interest to participate in the Young Women and Leadership project will open in November. If you would like to find out more you can email me at [email protected]

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