Women are much less likely than men to be called on as experts in the media. The Women’s Room site (http://thewomensroom.org.uk/), set up to help promote women in the media, says that, while women are present in the media - for example we represent 79% of victims - three-quarters of the media's “experts” are men.
The BBC have launched a hugely successful series of “Expert Women Days” where they take women working in science and technology and teach them how to get behind a camera. The only issue is the ratio of applicants to places – for some events up to 8000 women applied for just 20 slots.
I was one of the 7980 women not accepted. Luckily I got another chance when science and technology production company Screenhouse decided that they too would do their bit for expert women with an Inspiration and Communication Masterclass hosted by space scientist Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock.
A wide range of women took part in the course at Imperial College. Most were active research scientists, working in fields as diverse as nuclear fusion and molecular biology. Some were tech startup bods like me, and there was even a science lawyer thrown in for good measure.
There was one standout fact for me for the day. Every single woman who stood up to present thought that she came across worse than she did. After three training sessions in front of the camera, every single woman was delivering a fascinating and concise account of their research, in plain English. Yet almost all bowed their heads as they had finished and slinked back to their seats, nervously registering the positive feedback from science producers and voice coaches. I hope that the feedback will encourage them to do more.
True to Screenhouse’s aims, I was inspired by the day. It was very emotionally challenging, but it was great to pick up new presenting tips in an encouraging and nurturing environment. Most of all I was inspired by the other women who were speaking. I was so engrossed in thinking about speaking technique I had to listen to Jo Flanagan (from CCFE)’s talk twice before I registered that she was part of a team actually building a nuclear fusion engine. O. M. G. !
Screenhouse hopes to run more of these events, and inspire more women into the media. Sign up to hear when more dates are released at http://www.screenhouse.co.uk/inspiration.html.
And yes, Maggie Aderin-Pocock is as lovely as she looks on the TV.
Managing Director of Softwire, technology and backgammon presenter. Plus a little bit of new music radio.