Women lead the way


April 17, 2014

A Western Australian group supporting women working in the media has been the springboard for a network of offices opened nationally.

Women in Media recently held its 27th WA function, and recruited multiple award winning journalist and presenter Caroline Jones as its national patron ahead of its national launch.

It began in 2005 when a small group of women led by journalists Vicki Laurie and Susan Maushart decided to hold networking functions for women working in the media to share hard-earned knowledge and advice.

Women in Media committee member and WA Bureau Chief of The Australian, Paige Taylor, said that at the first function, Maushart gave the first talk which was hilarious.

“She’d just written a book called Wifework,” Taylor recalled.

“It was very bold and caused a splash and she talked a lot about women in the workplace and at home.”

The organisation has continued to gain momentum and now boasts more than 900 members and has a mentoring program for female student journalists.

Four gatherings are hosted each year featuring diverse voices of leading women in Australia from former Federal sex discrimination commissioner Pru Goward, to Stella Young, an ABC reporter and disability advocate.

The most recent event was held at the WA State Library on Monday March 31.

Walkley Award winning Perth journalist Colleen Egan interviewed Destroy the Joint feminist network founder Jenna Price in front of an audience of more than 100 women and three brave men.

Price talked about being a woman in a prominent position and the inequality that still occurs.

“There’s still a 17 per cent pay gap if you do the exact same job as a man,” she said.

In Western Australia the wage gap between male and female journalists is 25 per cent, according to a research project by the Global Media Monitoring Project last year.

Price said you could see how the media reports on women by looking to former Prime Minister Julia Gillard.

“The way that Julia Gillard was treated over the course of her time as Prime Minister was really shocking to me,” she said.

“It’s great to talk about someone’s policy and to dissect it and say ‘I disagree with the policy’, but that kind of personal, vindictive, vituperative way of discussing someone, that’s not really the issue.”

After the talk, Women in Media Committee members discussed the importance of the organisation, particularly for women new to the media field.

“When you put a group of women together they genuinely want to help each other,” said Miriam Borthwick, ABC’s first state political reporter and now senior media and communications advisor at Western Power.

Taylor was particularly enthusiastic about the group’s new mentoring program.

“It’s really wonderful when someone knows that they can call a journalist who’s in the middle or senior [stages] in their career and without saying ‘you must help me all the time every day’ you can get advice that would take you years to work out,” she said.

“I had some wonderful people helping me, but I so wish that I had a lifeline where I could call someone once a week and say: ‘I actually messed that up, what should I have done differently?’.”

Taylor said she was aware Women in Media would not appeal to everyone as many people think it excludes men. But she said the organisation welcomes male allies.

“We’ve had lots of blokes come and go,” she said.

Egan reflected on this on the night and said sometimes women can be the most critical of other women.

“Some of my best allies in the workplace have been men and some of my worst enemies in the workplace have been women,” she said.

Though Women in Media aims to provide networking and inspiration for women working within media, advice on how to be a great journalist remains universal, according to Price.

“The piece of advice I would give all journalists, male or female, is to be happy to innovate, to remain very curious, to recognise that it’s more important to break stories than to write beautifully and no-one gives a stuff about what you look like,” she said.

Price said Women in Media filled a vital role, particularly for young women.

“It’s really important to have a strong network of other women who recognise where you’re at and are in the same position,” she said.

“It offers them the opportunity to network with other people who are in senior positions and there’s no better way of recognising where the industry is at than having your own community.”

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