Brad March
Contributor

Where are the next Great Female Radio Stars?

Where’s the next Wendy, Jackie O, Kate, Amanda, FiFi,  Meshel, Robyn, Chrissie?

There are some outstanding women on air, but there are many, many more men. Why is that?

Where are the next generation of great female talent with experience, real star power, great communicators, the ones that are interesting and have that X Factor. Feisty, assertive, smart, driven woman with something ( a lot ) to say !

Given more than half the population are female, it’s worth asking the question why there aren’t more great female talent on air in radio? Why are there so many more males than females on air? How much of that has to do with Content Directors?

Sam Thompson Content Director from ARN’s Gold says, “Content Director gender is irrelevant when it comes to developing talent. A great Content Director will always be able to develop both male and female talent equally – otherwise they’re not a great Content Director.

“It’s then about adapting your style to best work with that talent. Be able to communicate the radio station strategy, listen to them on air and give them daily feedback, listen to them off the air and develop their ideas, be honest (in good times and bad), challenge, nurture, understand their lives and other commitments, encourage and contribute

“There are some great emerging female and male talent in Australia. Arguably less opportunities for them to develop on radio with networked shows/fewer mid-dawn shifts/voice tracking – and being a music announcer isn’t necessarily a pathway to becoming breakfast talent. However, there are now additional ways to enter – from stand-up, reality TV, sporting arenas, TV personalities, journalists – and then those X factor people that you just come across in your workplace or in your life that you must you do something with. It’s then about developing the talent to get them match fit for a prime time shift. This can be challenging (time, shift availability, financial restrictions, risk etc.) – but critical for future proofing your radio station”.

Without stereotyping women here’s a few facts. Generally women are the decision makers in the majority of households. The fact is female listeners have enormous appeal to advertisers.  And female skewed ratings deliver the greatest share of revenue.

Programmers need to ensure the next level of female talent are being nurtured and groomed in the smaller markets, ready to take on the big metro roles when they arise.

Fifi Box from FoxFm’s Breakfast show says “I think everyone in the industry is aware there is an issue with talent development and a dearth of young female and male radio talent coming through the ranks. I think more risks were taken a decade ago. I know when I stepped up from regional radio there wasn’t huge concern over my lack of profile but in the current competitive climate a high profile is almost mandatory for a key shift in metro markets “

“To be completely honest I have never felt being a woman has hindered or negatively affected my experience in radio. This obviously isn’t every woman’s experience but in my fifteen years at SCA I’ve worked for the most supportive and encouraging programmers in Guy Dobson, Craig Bruce and Dave Cameron who have made me feel nothing but respected regardless of my gender.

“I would like to think that in 2015 with female CEO’s, Content Directors and General Managers that women have come a long way in this industry and gender discrepancy on and off-air is fast becoming a thing of the past”

Chrissie Swan also see’s a bright future for the next level of female talent I think the next ‘Wendy, Kate and Fifi’ are probably working in smaller markets as I write this. This year I’ve been pretty much a free agent and I’ve been able to talk to a lot of radio stations  as part of the publicity I’ve been doing for the Spelling Bee. It’s the first time this has ever happened. I’ve definitely heard some great female voices in regional markets in the last few months. I make sure I tell them too. Jess at SeaFm on the Sunshine Coast, for example, has something. You can just hear it”.

“I try and make sure I reach out to women I think are passionate about radio (and in possession of the magical something) because the same was done for me by DeeDee at Gold and Kate Langbroek while she was at NOVA. Tim Ross did too – but we’re talking ladies here, aren’t we! Having someone who you admire treat you as a colleague, when you’re just starting out, is really special. I always try and repay the favour when I can and will talk to newbies for hours if they like”.

“The fact is, the ‘Kates and Amanda’s and Fifi’s of the industry are still working in their well deserved jobs. Hopefully they will be for some time. I am not concerned that there won’t be anyone to take over when they’ve had their fill. The new wave of women are exactly where they should be, slogging it out in smaller markets, learning everything there is to know about radio (and that includes producing the show themselves, and answering their own phones) and getting ready for the email to arrive with the next big opportunity”.

Joan Warner CEO of Commercial Radio Australia says the number of women in radio is growing. Across the commercial radio industry today there are women on air, on Boards and at CEO level. The number of women in the industry has continued to grow and become more visible in the higher ranks and in influential positions during my time at CRA”   

“On-air in the metro areas there are many examples of talented women excelling in their roles and playing a key role in their breakfast and drive teams.And in the regional markets there are many examples of established and new female on-air talent “

“More than 45 talented on-air women are nominated for an ACRA this year, and it’s heartening to see that more than half of the finalists in the  Best Newcomer (On Air) category are women, demonstrating that the next generation of female professionals is thriving in this extremely competitive arena “

“But to excel in this industry – in fact in any industry – women need to put themselves forward for roles that they aspire to. Nothing is more convincing, in terms of promotion, than dedication to a role and organisation, initiative, new ideas and, of course, results.  Women should not be daunted by any perceived “glass ceiling” but continue professional development and training, look for mentors and have confidence in their abilities. If a door opens always walk through – even if it might be a new experience or it may be taking on a bigger role or one a little outside of your experience. If someone has the confidence in you to offer that opportunity, then have the confidence in yourself to take it and make it work”.

Brendan Taylor Group PD at Nova says “ There are so many talented announcers in the industry, both females and males, from the established to those that are newer to radio and stand out as ones to watch. From Nova’s perspective, they may not be as well-known as our female breakfast and drive announcers across the country but Harlee McLeod in Sydney, Sarah Maree Cameron in Melbourne and Katie Mattin in Brisbane are strong performers who know their listeners, have a great presenting style and deserve the recognition.”

“In terms of up and coming presenters Elle Halliwell, Laura Dundovic and TV presenter Sussan Mourad have a great radio presence and will definitely have a role on air in the future.”

Erica Hodge Content Director for mix94.5 said, “Kristie Mercer is right. There has traditionally been less inclination to trial all female teams on air. I hope that changes. But Mickey Maher is also right. This is about talent identification, and – in our case – providing content that has broad appeal. We are lucky here at mix94.5 to have Kymba Cahill & Lisa Shaw on our breakfast & drive shows. Both women break the stereotype of the token radio female – they are intelligent, witty, warm, considered, opinionated and intelligent, and drive as much content as they support.”

One of the interesting questions often raised is would female listeners rather listen to females on the air?

Up until now there has been very little success with two females on air together. The only female duo on air on commercial radio presently is Monty Dimond and Zoe Marshall on KIIS and yet there are plenty of male duo’s Fitzy & Wippa, Lewis and Lowe, Eddie & Mick, Ed & Marto, Hamish & Andy and countless others. .

It has been tried many times, Jodie and Jo, Judith and Kaz , Wendy Harmer and Angela Catterns, Chrissie Swan and Yumi Stynes and a few others but mostly they have been short lived mainly due to a lack of rating success (although Chrissie and Jane Hall did achieve a #1 FM breakfast ). Women tend to listen but men don’t. In the past it’s delivered too narrow an audience for commercial radio to rate highly enough.

It’s true that generally a combination of female and male talent in a breakfast show broadens its appeal to listeners and therefore potentially delivers stronger ratings.

Maybe radio’s not the greatest environment for female talent?

Its possible that it’s not about gender at all, maybe it just gets down to only the strongest (or loudest ) survive, male or female? Those who are prepared to do what it takes. Maybe up until now that’s been more men than women?

Or is it just that radio networks given the pressure they are under to deliver and increase ratings and profits don’t give new talent, female and male, enough time to develop.

As Eleanor Roosevalt once said, “A women is like a tea bag – you can’t tell how strong she is until you put her in hot water “

In 2015 we shouldn’t even be having this discussion. In recent research published in the Journal of Neuroscience, it showed that woman speak about 20,000 words a day; some 13,000 more than the average man. So they’re a natural for radio.

Of course radio needs to be providing a platform for interesting people both female and male…..but must not just cast women in supporting roles.

Coming up Tomorrow on Radio Today we list The Top 10 Female Talent On Air in Metro FM Radio.

Brad March is a Director of Radio Today, a former Program Director, Group Program Director & CEO of Austereo and Group Programmer at ARN. He is Director of Marchmedia

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