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 is 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!

Content Directors are always on the lookout for new talent, female and male.

The next level of great talent will come mostly out of regional radio and also TV, comedy, sport or really anywhere. A profile helps but isn’t critical. The content, the on air performance is the most important factor.

Host of KIIS106.5 Breakfast Jackie O said, 10-15 years ago, unless you were a comedian you weren’t even considered for breakfast radio as a female.  

“Thankfully, things are changing. And I believe modern audiences would rather listen to a real and honest conversation on the radio than a segment that has only been crafted so someone can deliver their punchline at the end.

“Women who can be open, honest and relatable to their audience, tend to do quite well these days and if you have good chemistry with your on-air partner, then the funny stuff comes naturally – and the bonus is it’s authentic and unscripted.

“And while CD’s are finally starting to realise that female talent comes in many different guises, I do strongly believe we should be giving more women in  regional radio the opportunity to try out for these bigger roles. 

“Many are being overlooked, as there seems to be this mistaken belief that in order to create “buzz” for a new breakfast show, there has to be high profile stars involved.

“I don’t think the audience cares how famous you are, neither do they care whether you’re male or female for that matter, they just want to hear good radio.” 

The “must-be-famous formula” is just as flawed as the “must-be-a-comedian formula”. The best CDs know that there is no “formula” – you just have to search for those with the talent, passion, and a brain for radio. And regional radio is a great place to start looking “

Learning the ropes and the craft of broadcasting takes time and effort from both the on air talent and the Content Director. Former top rating 2dayfm breakfast star Wendy Harmer remembers starting out on breakfast radio.

“In the beginning, working with Brad was a daily, frustrating experience as I learned the radio ropes because I had to learn a very different kind of craft. That took a lot of hard work and was lucky to have a boss who persevered. 

“My favourite story about working with Brad was after one blazing row, next day I saw he had pinned on his office wall “Ten Tips For Working With Difficult People”. But together we built a good show that was exciting to be a part of.”

“Are programme directors across the craft in the same way these days? Starting out in radio, you want to learn from someone who knows what they’re doing – who teaches and is not critical, just for the sake of it.

“You don’t need a female boss.  You need a smart and empathetic one. But perhaps what you do need as a woman – especially if you’d like to have kids and a radio career – is a partner in your home life who’s prepared to come on the journey with you.”

“Many of the women mentioned here, have very strong and supportive husbands and partners. And to complement that you need a workplace that recognises those challenges and brings the whole family along. The old “jock” mentality is an enemy of family life. Family friendly workplaces… why are we still struggling with that?” 

As for new talent, I wonder if radio talent spotters get out and about in the comedy clubs as they once used to? With some 500 plus shows at the Melbourne Comedy Festival, there’s no shortage of female talent, but you have to get out of the office to find them. They don’t just fall in your lap.

“And of course, it’s still true that after FM radio, there’s nowhere to continue your career in talkback. The old “glass microphone” is still well and truly a barrier for women who want to graduate from FM breakfast. There’s always a use-by-date”.

Does the problem with the lack of great up and coming female talent have something to do with the lack of great female Content Directors?

Do we have the right CD’s and EP’s to manage, coach, nurture and direct great female talent?

In metro radio there’s more female CD’s than ever before, people like Sam Thompson at Gold, Irene Hulme at 2day, Erica Hodge at Mix and Susan Carter at Mix.

2Day/Hit Content Director Irene Hulme talks about the next level of great talent.

Ash London has the X factor, you hear it, see it, a clear identify and attitude with a strong ability to influence, Ash is confident in who she is and therefore confident as a performer and in her ability and it allows her to be the generous performer she needs to be.

“Cat Lynch (Cat & Amos) and Heidi Anderson (Heidi, Will & Woody), two more great women on the air who have what it takes to go all the way.

“Comfortable and confident performers all with enormous self-awareness and I think ultimately along with the ability to tell a great yarn is the most important thing, these women all have that in common.

“If there’s a lack of female talent out there, I’m not sure it’s necessarily linked to a lack of female content directors, yes perhaps female talent feel more comfortable opening up to a female boss, and there may be that immediate level of comfort, I don’t know, you would have to ask them but I don’t think just because our conversations are different means I will have more impact on their development.

“I’ve had good and challenging relationships managing men and women.”

“Maz Compton has had and continues to have very strong relationships with her male CD’s and bosses, Dave Cameron, Craig Bruce and Sam Cavanagh, she can get the Leadership, the coaching, the support she needs from them regardless of gender

“Why are there many more men coming through than women? Simply, there are more roles for them, our industry is far more accepting of male on air duos than it is women and let’s not forget male sports stars fill a large portion of on air roles also”.

So why are there more roles on air for men compared to women in radio? And would more female managers make any difference and improve the numbers of women on air?

Kate Langbroek host of ARN’s KIIS national Drive show says,“I don’t think it’s exclusively a lack of female talent, as much as a paucity of original voices generally. People are scared to hold views that run counter to ‘most people’, but the problem is, you have to be able to articulate something most people can’t in order to be worth listening to in the first place.   However, given  this broad tendency towards  homogenisation, I don’t think the situation is helped by the lack of women placed to nurture talent. Men are generally more conservative than women (chinos and polo shirts, anyone?!) – so perhaps they aren’t the ones to foster women who need to speak boldly?”

“I have always worked with men; it is a fact of life if you work in comedy. And I have worked with great and challenging men. I enjoy the engagement.  But In retrospect, my first four station managers were all women  – brilliant women – (starting at 3RRR), and I always felt approved of and  loved by them; as a result of their presence,  I was possibly emboldened to be fearless, though I was blissfully unaware of this at the time.

“But  let’s face it; a woman performing only for men ends up being a very different creature than a woman who gets  to perform for her own kind.

Generally, you get to laugh more, laugh differently, and  also keep your clothes on”.

 Tomorrow, how some of todays stars started out, what 97.3’s Robin Bailey thinks it takes to make it, Jo Stanley on being a woman in radio and we hear from SCA’s Mickey Maher and ARN’s Duncan Campbell. And coming this Friday we list The Top 10 Female Talent On Air in Metro 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

Comment Form

Your email address will not be published.

Recent comments (0)
Post new comment


See all