Women's History Month - Women in Media: Victoria Easton-Riley
As you probably know, this month is Women's History Month and last week we celebrated International Women's Day. We were lucky to have a chat with Victoria Easton-Riley, who is the Content Director at Bauer in Scotland, about women's representation in the media industry, her journey and what still needs to be done.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I'm the content director for Bauer in Scotland. I look after our Hits and Greatest Hits networks across the country. I have been in radio for nearly 25 years. In my current role, I have been here for two years managing the team in Scotland, and I also head up the women and programming team for the diversity and inclusion forum at Bauer.
Do we still need International Women's Day? Is it still something that's important?
Yeah, I think International Women's Day is really important, I think, as we go forward, it's about celebrating everyone and the differences that we all have, the experiences we all have. So I think it's a really good thing to have a moment in time where you can celebrate a certain group of people. I think that, strangely, to say this in 2021, we still have a long way to go in a lot of different areas but today is for women and International Women's Day is celebrating women in many different fields. It's not just radio - it's as people, mothers, friends, bosses, as employees.
Media had decent representation in some areas for women, but at the top of organisations, this representation can be lacking. What’s your perspective on why that is.
So I think this is a real historical issue. When you look back at the media, and you see how male-dominated it was right through the decades from the beginning of time - you just need to watch a dramatisation like the crown, for example. All the reporters are men. That's just the industry it was back then. It takes a long time to get out of that. Men generally employed people who are like them and we know that's an ongoing issue. So change has been gradual. I started in the late 90s in radio and I was the only female in programming at that point. Then I moved on to my next job in the early noughties and I was the only female producer in an entire group of maybe 10, 12, 15 people. That was the start of my journey 25 years ago and that's just me as a junior producer, so it takes time for that to evolve and to adapt and change. Now I'm in a management role, and on sort of my level, at Bauer for example, we do just have in programming, myself and one other senior manager. Yes, we've got really inspiring woman above us, but it just shows you that when you look at the percentage of how many male content directors there are, for there only to be two females means we still got a long way to go. Women in the past have been brought through to feel like their job in the media was admin, sales, reception and then eventually news. You look at news teams and there's quite a high proportion of women. In programming, we still have a long way to go. I think that's why it's really important that we do have senior leaders, and that they do come along and that we inspire other young women who are coming through in junior roles to say “no this is absolutely possible” you know it's something that we have to do is show women what can be done and show how good we are at it!. And so yeah, I think it's the problem is it's taking so long because it started off at zero.
You talk about looking up and seeing inspirational leaders above you, why do you think having that proper gender balance and proper representation in the kind of role that you do is so important?
For various reasons, I think it's really important that we have really diverse managers. We all bring something different to the table and that should be celebrated. We should embrace that. Even for someone who's already in management like me, that I look up and I see it's possible to go even further and for a woman to be so highly respected within the industry of radio and media. We owe it to our readers, viewers, and our advertisers because that's who our audiences and clients are. They have women who are running businesses and are also female viewers and listeners and so we need to represent everyone.
And so that I guess the magic question is, what would you, what would you do if you were kind of given free rein across the media industry, what would you do to fix this lack of silence I guess at the top of organisations.
A personal thing that I'm going through at the moment is that we're launching our women in programming training for women who are in content across Bauer. For women already within the business and women that we want to bring into the business. When we have spoken to the women who work for us already and asked them what they might need, the one thing that every woman comes forward and says is confidence. Generally speaking, women have had it drummed into them to be a little bit subservient and their opinions didn't matter for such a long time. I don't think people think that now, but again, it goes back to that historical thing where that’s the way it was. We have to look at the very base of the problem as to why are women aren’t so confident and what we can do to make women feel more empowered in business. That's a big job. When I looked at the stats that we had, and I can only speak for what we had, but it was 100% of women who said that they had issues of confidence. You know that's a big problem.
I guess, what you're saying is you're trying to effectively reprogram the mindset of the women that you're working with to say “come on let's elevate you”?
Very much. I've spoken to women in the past who were told to get back in their box, told to walk before they can run, told their opinions don't matter, laughed at when they brought up the gender pay gap. That's just women that I've spoken to in my career and woman that I've worked alongside
I think I've been really lucky. Thankfully I’ve always worked for men who have really championed me as a woman and pushed me to go forward in my career. I'm really thankful for that but unfortunately, that's not been the case everywhere. I think it's not only changing the mindset of women to feel more confident and their thought processes decision-making, but it's also retraining the thought process of some men who've been in the business a long time and still have pre-historic views. There are still some people who have those beliefs and thoughts and The longer someone has believed those things and more difficult it is to get out of it. But then, you know, as we evolve and those people leave the business and the younger, fresher people come through, change naturally happens and it just becomes part of your DNA as a business.
If we've got anybody who's reading the article to who's thinking “well I'm a young woman who wants to get into the radio business but I'm not sure it's the right place for me” what would you say to those young women?
I’d say “it absolutely is”. This industry needs women - it needs people like you who may be doing this. It’s really important. I think the industry has come a long way. There are senior leaders coming and more men championing women and women within organisations supporting other women as well. Something simple like a WhatsApp group with some of the women that that work was in my team. Sometimes it's really quiet and there's nothing on there but other times it's them supporting each other and that's more common now, so it's not as scary as it used to be. There are communities where you will get support or they'll always be somewhere to turn to - whether that is a female leader, whether that's someone who will be a colleague alongside you or whether that's a male manager who wants to support women and can see the benefit of more women. I think it's a great place for women to go and I really do really hand-on heart believe that radio is massively changing and it's only the start of it.