By PAUL CHARMAN
A packed hall of 180 heard top journalists debate “Do women in the media have equal opportunities and pay” at a London Press Club debate on 19th February.
The spirited debate heard Miriam Gonzales, founder and chair of Inspiring Girls, and partner of former deputy prime minister Nick Clegg, get the loudest applause for her “simple solution”.
At the summing up of the debate, organised by the London Press Club in association with the Society of Editors, the chair, columnist and broadcast Anne McElvoy invited each panellist for their “markers” on what needs to be done.
“What we are doing with so many very well-meant initiatives is dressing up the lack of action,” said Gonzales, who admitted becoming “sick and tired” of a career trying to change things through networking and mentoring.
“Because nothing is happening – we continue to see many more men at the top despite the fact that women make up 51 percent of the population.
“So I have a very simple solution. Whenever a manager goes to the boss with the list for promotion and it’s only men, they should say ‘Really? Go back. Look again’. And in three years I want to see something completely different. And your job, your salary – I am making you personally responsible for making this happen!”, she said to thunderous applause from the 150-strong audience at the debate held in Stationers’ Hall in the City.
Earlier she said “The main, difference is that men are now speaking out with women”, adding that “what was missing is equality in the home.”
Sue Ryan, head of training at the Mail Publishing Group, agreed on the carer front: “The biggest issue is that women are primary carers and tend to fall away in the middle of their careers.”
However, she was “totally mystified” by continued inequality, so often confirmed by Women in Journalism research, “that women don’t have senior positions and find it harder to get to the top”.
Yet referring to her annual intake of 60/70 trainees, “they are all come in on equal pay, there are more women than men and they are just as talented. But then what happens in the industry, and the awful thing is that there are probably only two conclusions and I don’t like either of them: one, a huge male conspiracy, or two that women are just not assertive enough at looking after themselves.”
Charlotte Ross, deputy editor of the London Evening Standard, was “generally optimistic” as “the days of women being screened out are over”. “In the last few months there has been a huge awakening of consciousness which, coupled with the work done by campaigning organisations such as Women in Journalism, means people are very very keen to address the optics of equal pay and opportunities in the media. So now is a very good time to be a woman in the media.”
She advised women journalists to “strategise when asking for a pay rise”, for example by knowing when budgets are set; “to be indispensable”; and “to fight for flexibility and support when you have kids.”
Charlie Brinkhurst-Cuff, deputy editor at gal-dem, weekend editor at Dazed and Confused Magazine and columnist from the “funky end of Fleet Street”, according to McElvoy, said she had been “saddened by the lack of women of colour” in the industry. She also lamented the fact that women tended “to negate their own achievements, and often will accept lower rates for freelance work,” and called for wider transparency on pay.
Editor emeritus at the Telegraph and president of the Society of Editors, Ian MacGregor, having consulted “a lot of senior editors” prior to the debate, said they had spoken of “an unconscious bias”. Also, “the long hours culture is not ideal as well as the tendency to employ people who look like you” sometimes militated against women, said MacGregor, who called for a “structural and cultural change” to attain full equality for women in the media.
Doug Wills, president of the London Press Club, in thanking the panellists put down his “own marker for the future”, which was for all members of the audience to join the London Press Club “to continue the debate and work for change.” To join the Press Club visit: https://membermojo.co.uk/londonpressclub