Today, March 8th 2022, marks International Women’s Day. It’s a day of celebration, reflection, accountability and empowerment. The theme of International Women’s Day changes yearly, and particularly this year, we’re looking at ‘breaking the bias’.
So, let’s bring this into our very own industry – Broadcast media. For decades, we’ve been living with the bias that the higher-ups, the influentials, the top-dogs tend to be male, whilst the women in broadcast media were usually put on-screen and picked – for the most part – because of their appearance. Of course, I’m not talking about the actresses in TV and film, but more so the journalists, the news anchors, the game show hosts. I mean, how many gameshows in the 80’s had a male host, with a female to ‘model the prizes’?
We can’t ignore that the bias is there. The people in the background; they tend to be males. The software guys, the technical guys, the cameramen and the board directors, etc.
But on days like today, we look to celebrate those who are breaking that bias – the women in the technology side of broadcast and streaming.
I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing some of those women in the run-up to #IWD22, and now of sharing some of their experiences and insights into the broadcast sector from a female point of view. Here’s what they had to say…
How diverse is the industry, and has that changed in the last few decades?
Well, according to Peggy Dau, co-founder of ‘Women in Streaming media’, it’s still a male-dominated industry. “There is not a woman in this sector, working in any role, that has not been the only woman in the room on many occasions,” she told me, however, she’s seeing more women in senior positions.
“I like the attitude I am seeing from younger women in their 20s-early 30s. They have a “take no prisoner” mentality, meaning that they rightly believe they should have access to any and all opportunities. Nothing should stand in the way of their career advancement. They expect to have a seat at the table.”
Barbara Lange, CEO of Kibo121 agrees. “From the early days of my work career, I was often the only woman in the room,” she says. “I think the industry has become more diverse, but still much too slowly. Not only are there far too few women, but also too few people of colour.”
“But there has been progress in making people more aware and beginning to change the equation through awareness. Things like the #MeToo and social injustice movements are critical in this journey.
There is always more to be done.”
What challenges/opportunities do women face in the industry?
When I spoke with Markela Deverikou – a Guarantee Broadcast Engineer working within the Outside Broadcast (OB) industry – I was glad to hear that her experience has overall been a positive one.
“But in the past I have struggled with not being heard or taken seriously. When you start working with a male dominated team finding your place and the right balance of professionalism and personality can be quite tricky.”
“There’s been a significant shift in the last 3-4 years and topics about diversity and inclusivity have been at the foreground… We are nowhere near where we should be yet. I think when we stop talking about diversity and inclusivity within the workplace because there’s a good balance, we would have succeeded.”
I couldn’t agree more with this, and when I stopped to think about it, I wondered when that time might come.
Whilst Markela’s experience had been mostly positive, there are of course some women who have had negative, and even traumatic, experiences in such a male-dominated industry.
“I have been subjected to “bullying” by men who thought I had power or control that they needed,” Peggy told me. “I laugh now when I think about what they thought I had (it really wasn’t worth the shenanigans). I now have a zero-tolerance attitude towards that behaviour, whether it is directed at myself or others.”
Barbara made a fantastic point – “I have experienced all sorts of things that may not look big on the surface, but are more like unconscious bias, which is harder to pinpoint.” It’s hard to tell when someone knows they’re being particularly misogynistic or sexist, and when they might just simply act or think a certain way because that’s ‘what they grew up with’. Perhaps the key to breaking the bias is to call out that behaviour, but not necessarily demonise the person themselves for it.
The way a person may react to you explaining that their actions are biased usually will tell you a lot about their intentions behind it. Speaking up and acknowledging it may be the only resolution.
How do we implement diversity in the workplace?
It’s a tough question, and possibly because many think they are already doing so. They could of course be right, but it’s more than just having women and people of colour join your organisation. That diversity shouldn’t stop when that person is hired. It’s a longer road, one that needs constant maintenance and supervision.
“My company is supporting and sponsoring initiatives that help promote diversity and inclusivity,” said Markela, and this is one of those things an organisation can do to promote diversity on the surface. But perhaps more needs to be done beneath the surface, within the workplace itself too.
It starts with management. Of course, everybody looks to their leaders for example, for a baseline, and this is where the system can fail. Without a leadership that is willing to accept that there are things that need to be done and put in place to make sure that their business is diverse and stays diverse, there’s a knock-on effect down the hierarchy. Leaders have a job to do to ensure that anybody from an oppressed group – whether it be gender based, sexuality base, race based etc – feel equal and are seen as equal, but also are given what they need to succeed should a barrier be put in their way.
As Markela so rightly said before, we will know when we reach the right balance because the conversation surrounding diversity and inclusion will cease to exist – it will be the norm. Barbara agrees, and says “as the CEO of my own company, I am very keen to be seen as a leader. Not a woman leader, but as a leader.” The day that we stop needing to distinguish a difference is the day that we have, in fact, broken the bias.
What does international women’s day mean to you?
This was my final question to Peggy, Barbara and Markela. Whilst we talk about today, it’s easy to sometimes lose sight of just how emotionally fuelled this fight for equality is. It’s not simply a reminder that women exist within the working world to us, but a beacon of solidarity that we hope is able to shine its light on the issues still being faced, igniting the beginning of a conversation on how to fix them.
“It’s one day out of 365 to highlight women and the challenges and opportunities we face every day. Like many of these ‘days’, it’s something we should be paying attention to every day,” said Peggy.
“Personally, I feel quite fortunate that my life has had limited restriction in terms of having access to education, business opportunity, revenue flow and overall quality of life. However, I realize that this is not the case for many women and IWD shines a light on the many challenges that still exist for many, many women.”
Peggy’s response had me questioning, why should women have to feel ‘lucky’ for living what seems like quite the normal, unchallenged life? Barbara’s answer seemed to come from a similar place of questioning.
“I wonder why it is necessary to have such a day. Shouldn’t we all be recognized without having a special day? I suppose we will have achieved something when we no longer have such days on the calendar and everyone can thrive in their endeavours.”
And that’s precisely the point. International Women’s Day is lovely to have to celebrate the achievements of women; and perhaps we look forward to it being a day for just that in the future, rather than having to use it as an excuse to have the conversations that question why there is still a divide or bias.
Markela agrees, and told me she sees it as a day that should be powerful and inspiring. “I think IWD is so important, as it shines a light to all the wonderful female professionals in roles that can inspire a younger generation.”
“The more we talk about the possibilities available out there for women, the more diversity we are promoting and creating. It’s a day where we can focus on women’s accomplishments as an integral part of the industry and show that yes, you can do this, and this is available to you.”
After having these conversations with just a few of the incredible women in the broadcast and streaming industries, it seems clear to me that International Women’s Day still means a great deal to us and holds huge significance in the conversations of diversity and inclusion that are ongoing, even in 2022.
These women are showing that despite prejudices weakening, they still exist but are being fought against. It was an encouraging conversation to have, highlighting just how far we have come in the last few decades alone in a male-dominated industry.
To find out more about the incredible roles of Peggy, Barbara and Markela, scroll down.
Written by Beth Law, Production Manager of The RDK Podcast.
With special thanks to…
“I am an independent consultant working with a variety of companies in the media tech sector. It is hard to be in media tech without ‘touching’ streaming in some way. In my role, I am able to work with a variety of companies – and connect the dots between different technologies, go-to-market models and business strategies.”
“It’s scary to think about, but I first touched the streaming sector in the late 90s when I worked for Hewlett-Packard. I was collaborated with R&D, product and sales teams pursuing the early CDN companies. I also managed partnerships with many of the companies that were the initial enablers of IPTV (broadcast/linear delivery over IP networks – it was streaming, but we didn’t call it streaming at that time).”
“For 12 years I was the Executive Director of SMPTE, the global professional association devoted to the quality and evolution of motion imaging. SMPTE is the standards body that makes media work. One of its many achievements was enabling the technology for video to travel over IP networks, plus many others. “
“I joined SMPTE in 2010 and just stepped down at the end of 2021 to start a new venture. I was part of SMPTE during a critical period of transformation from analog to digital. When I joined SMPTE there was no iPad, no Netflix streaming, and cable and cinema were the main ways to be entertained. Today, we are living in a whole new world. My new venture, Kibo121, is focused on sustainability issues in the media tech industry.”
“I started training as a broadcast engineer in 2014, and now I’m’ a Guarantee Broadcast Engineer working within the Outside Broadcast (OB) industry. I am responsible for all technical aspects of a production. At the early stages of a project, I plan and decide on the equipment and kit based on the technical requirements of a production. The next stage is to prep and test the kit in base before it leaves for location.
“On site with the help of the team we rig, set up and install the equipment and then proceed to configure it to each productions’ needs. I’m there to make sure the technical solution works, fix, resolve the issue or provide a different solution when it doesn’t and help the client achieve their vision and technical requirements.”